Give smarter: A tremendous opportunity exists for major givers to drive long-lasting and fundamental improvements
Building a Community of Hope doesn’t end with better coordinated and targeted services by government agencies. It must also involve private and philanthropic groups working differently than they have with government and local communities.
Examining a longstanding approach to philanthropy hits close to home for Casey Family Programs. We were created nearly 50 years ago by Jim Casey, the founder of United Parcel Service. For many decades, we used our resources to provide high-quality, long-term foster care services to children. Through that work, we were able to help thousands of children across America.
But over time we began to ask ourselves a difficult question: Is this enough? For every child we served directly, there were thousands of others in public child welfare systems that we were not able to directly help.
So a decade ago, Casey Family Programs began a transformation in approach. We began to partner with public child welfare systems and help increase their capacity to work with communities to improve child safety and success. We didn’t come in with a prescription; we came in to listen and to learn from the system’s leaders, managers and staff themselves. We provided expertise and resources that supported improvements sought by those running the system. And we created opportunities for those leaders to learn from each other.
Providing direct services to children and families remains a critical part of our work. But now we seek to develop and demonstrate practices and policies that can help inform change for public child welfare systems and private service providers.
A recent letter from Jennifer and Peter Buffett (youngest son of Warren Buffett) of the NoVo Foundation helps to articulate how changing the approach to philanthropy can better support progress for families. Too often, the letter said, what we get from giving is “short-term fixes and feel-good stories” that don’t produce lasting change:
Choices are inevitable in a foundation since there’s never enough money to go around, but it’s possible to make these choices in ways that support other people to determine their own futures, especially those who have less power. This is the polar opposite of philanthropy that imposes a vision from outside, an approach that’s rapidly becoming a new norm. Philanthropy doesn’t have to be this way, just as foundations don’t have to see people as passive recipients of their largesse, or ignore the outside forces that create poverty and inequality.”
– Jennifer and Peter Buffett
We believe that in building Communities of Hope, a tremendous opportunity exists for major givers such as private and corporate philanthropies to partner with the community-driven efforts of parents, local leaders, advocacy groups, government leaders, faith-based and civic institutions, youth and others to drive long-lasting and fundamental improvements.