How can a corporate grant continue its effect, beyond the initial pay-out? By building up the “core muscles” of a local nonprofit agency, in ways that will ensure future strength for that organization. The Allstate Foundation, a Donors Forum Member, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary of investing in local communities by announcing a strategic new program that deliberately focuses on investing in existing leadership development, organizational structure and up-to-date technology, areas that are vital to the overall health and effectiveness of a nonprofit. “The 60th Anniversary Executive Summit Grant Program came to be as the Foundation made efforts to engage key stakeholders in our work”, said Patricia Garza, the Allstate Foundation Director of Strategic Philanthropy. "Allstate agency owners, Allstate employees, and our recipient partners were all encouraged to make grants at the local level, because local service is ingrained in the culture of Allstate," she added.
The Foundation brought together nonprofit leaders and queried them on the needs of their organizations, resulting in an increased focus on leadership development and capacity building, not the least of which is a strengthened spotlight on technology needs: just the type of overhead costs which are often overlooked in the struggle to balance budgets and provide a consistent level of services.
Donors Forum is one of a growing number of voices speaking out about the need to re-examine the assumption that operating costs are somehow negative and not worthy of support. As an effort to further the conversation on this issue, the Real Talk About Real Costs event was held on March 12, 2013. At this convening of close to 300 funders and nonprofit partners, Ann Goggins Gregory of the Bridgespan Group and author of The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle facilitated a candid and productive discussion in which professionals from all sides grappled with issues of administrative under-reporting and under-funding.
The Allstate Foundation was an enthusiastic collaborator for that event, providing vital sponsorship that enabled the “mixed company” group to cooperate and dialogue with each other through reverse role-play case studies and brainstorming sessions. Ultimately, event attendees on both ends of the spectrum were challenged to be more intentional in word and deed about the reality that, as Real Talk speaker Unmi Song, Executive Director of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, said, "an effective program and its budget includes items like staff training, professional development, technology upgrades, [and] assessment".
It is not difficult to envision the benefits that thoughtful, well-informed overhead funding can have upon the health and efforts of a local agency. Bridge Communities, a Donors Forum Partner, was announced as one of the 14 recipients of the Allstate Executive Summit grants. Bridge Communities will use the gift for the development of a new cloud-based client management system that will allow them to interconnect with the data systems of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, enabling more effective services to the homeless and at-risk families they serve in suburban Chicago. This partnership reveals how attention to administrative support can accelerate the service referral and placement process: improving and transforming the lives of struggling American families.
~Christine Holt, Communications and Development Volunteer