Thursday, December 31, 2009

Too many things & not enough of one?

Three years ago, another funder said to me, “You guys are worthless. You’re trying to satisfy so many people with such disparate charitable interests that your impact is diluted. Your grants don’t make a significant impact on anybody. Rather than give grants of $12,000 to 1,000 different organizations, you should be giving 100 grants of $120,000 – or better yet, give grants of $1.2 million to 10 organizations. You’re a pathetic example of the good that philanthropy can do.

We absolutely know for sure that small grants can make a big difference. There are thousands of examples, but how about this one? In 2006, when Elizabeth Tarrant Anderson was 17, she recommended a grant of $500 to underwrite a website for a new non-profit organization hardly anyone had heard of back then – Pattison’s Academy - now acclaimed as one of the most valuable programs in the Lowcountry for children with multiple disabilities, and recently approved as a Charter School.

The Board and staff of Coastal Community Foundation decide how to spend our time, but recommendations for how we spend our money comes from the community we serve – from our donors who have their own charitable agendas and want us to help them to achieve them, and from volunteer grant review committees whose combined wisdom has never let us down. Every grant we make, whether it’s for $500 or $500,000, is the result of deep thought by a donor or by a Committee charged with honoring donors’ charitable priorities.

Whether it’s a gift in a box with a bow or a charitable gift, its value is usually directly proportional not to the dollar value, but to the thought that went into it.


Susie J Goss said...

I agree that small grants can make big impacts on lives. For several years 12-15 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities with volunteer partners have trained weekley on the Revanel Bridge.During 2009 they completed 4 run events including the CRBR, Race for Cure and ending with the Reindeer Run in the rain.They have developed confidence to attempt things they never thought possible and are certainly more physically fit. All the results of a small grant from the CRBR Grant Committee. A little can go a long way! Thanks!

Pattison's Academy said...

So much in the community has started with CCF. Don't they say, "giant oaks grow from tiny acorns?"

Our dream and that $500 for our website gave us a start, but the investment didn't end there. CCF monitors the investments they and their donors make closely. So yes, we got our very first donation EVER from that grant, but there was so much more to it than that.

The fact that someone believed in what we were doing enough to give us that much money gave us the confidence to go forward. (It is still a LOT of money to us.) But the advice, support, professionalism, and actions are an investment CCF has made in us and so many other organizations in the community. CCF has taught us so much.

Thank you Elizabeth Anderson. And thank everyone at CCF. We are not a giant oak by any means (maybe a very small sapling :-)), but with your guidance we are growing every day. Pam Sloat (Founder - Pattison's Academy)

Katherine said...

I absolutely agree with the comments from the ladies above. No matter the stage of your organization's development, a gift is a trust between you and the donor that you will work diligently to affect change in your target population. That trust can be created with $500 as well as $5 mil and every denomination in between.