National College Access Network

How Community Foundations Can Transform Students’ Lives and Delight Donors

Posted on September 25, 2017

The Surprising Way Community Foundations Can Transform Students’ Lives and Delight Donors

NCAN published the following in a white paper on May 31, 2017. For a PDF of the white paper, click here.

Community foundations have a lot of competition for donors these days. Growth in commercial donor-advised products such as the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund has exploded, and even churches, universities, and United Way chapters have developed their own donor-advised fund options. As a result, many community foundations are working hard to distinguish themselves from the pack in order to retain and attract new donors.

Research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) finds that donors believe the top two advantages of working with a community foundation are personal service and demonstrable impact in the local community. Unfortunately, CEP also found that impact often takes a back seat to donors’ perceived interests: “The competition for donor resources has led some community foundation CEOs to focus on being responsive to donor interests and needs in a way that undermines the foundation’s ability to work strategically. The focus on the donors becomes an end in itself, rather than a means to community impact.”

So how can community foundations break the pattern of over-responsiveness to donors and significantly increase impact? We have one surprising word for you: scholarships. The easiest and most effective way for foundations to demonstrate measurable impact in their community and to attract donors is to transform their scholarship programs as a part of a strategic post-secondary attainment initiative.

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