Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation
Source: Chapin Hall Center for Children (University of Chicago)
The Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation, established in 1954, serves Syracuse, New York, and the surrounding Onondaga County community. In 2003, foundation leaders decided to devote about half of their $1.2 million annual grant-making budget to a targeted initiative in the 30-block Southside neighborhood of inner-city Syracuse. After intensive neighborhood discussions, the foundation created a new organization, the Southside Neighborhood Action Group (SNAG), to stimulate a “bottom-up” process of neighborhood development. With the help of a resident advisory group, SNAG engages in several neighborhood development strategies, including a housing improvement mini-grant program. A major goal is to strengthen the neighborhood’s leadership and organizational base so that residents can achieve their goals for the area. 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.
Region: Northern America