Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund

Source: Chapin Hall Center for Children (University of Chicago)

Date: 2004

For more than 50 years, the Haas, Jr. Fund has addressed the challenges faced by residents in low-income neighborhoods in the Bay Area of California. Haas, Jr. currently funds four program areas to improve conditions and expand opportunities for low-income and other residents, including strengthening children, youth, and families; strengthening neighborhoods; promoting diversity and inclusiveness; and enhancing nonprofit leadership and governance. In recent years, the Fund has developed greater focus, leadership, integration, and impact in its grantmaking. In 2001-2002, after substantial discussion, the Fund’s trustees decided to bring a more comprehensive, ambitious, and cross-cutting vision to their work in two “emerging neighborhoods.” To avoid creating the inflated expectations that have troubled publicly announced “initiatives,” the Fund adopted a developmental approach to community improvement in emerging neighborhoods: it increased the intensity and purposefulness of its support in two neighborhoods but did so without fanfare. The duration of this more intensive support and involvement does not have a specific time frame, but it is understood to require a minimum of 5 to 10 years. Grants in the two emerging neighborhoods currently range from $700,000 to $1.2 million but are expected to vary from year to year. For several years, Chapin Hall has been working with a group of foundations that have an uncommon approach to their philanthropic mission. These foundations are applying many of the principles identified as key for foundations attempting to promote positive community change. We have dubbed their operating style embedded philanthropy because what distinguishes them from conventional philanthropies is an unusually intimate and enduring engagement with the communities in which they live and work. A long-term, place-based commitment is the first criterion for embedded philanthropy. A second criterion is a commitment to direct and ongoing community engagement and relationships with a range of community actors. Thirdly, embedded funders don’t think of these relationships as incidental or secondary aspects of their community work; they constitute the very means and method through which embedded funders do philanthropy. Finally, whether or not monetary grants are part of an embedded funder’s approach, their community engagement and change efforts consist of a good deal more than grant-making. Beyond these four defining features, embedded funders tend to share several other characteristics: an unusually flexible and adaptive approach to their work; a high tolerance for uncertainty; an emphasis on respect and reciprocity in their approach to community relationships; and a willingness to sacrifice a measure of the power and authority that foundations ordinarily possess. In a philanthropic climate of growing eagerness for new perspectives and departures, embedded philanthropy deserves greater attention from the wider philanthropic community. Its distinctive operating approach offers novel insights and leverage on the challenges and dilemmas faced by all philanthropic foundations.

Link: Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund

Keyword: Strategy

Region: Northern America