Insights to Impact

The Latest from Brooklyn Community Foundation


A Call to Philanthropy: Community Engagement for Stronger Decision Making

Last week, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s director of research, Ryan Schlegel, responded to an all-too-common trend among foundations in his article, “Recent Calls for Foundation Engagement Leave Out Grantees and Communities They Serve.”

The philanthropic sector tends to be most comfortable with a particular kind of engagement, in which board members choose what is important to address, often without the collaboration of communities and grantees—those who are closest to the challenges at hand. As both individuals and foundations try to navigate this tumultuous political moment, Schlegel says that looking to those who are working within communities provides far greater insight, and a greater opportunity for impact:

“The most effective foundations go beyond listening to actively sharing power in order to co-determine the best interventions with their grantees and the communities they are part of, which are closest to the sticky problems foundations are working to address.”

Schlegel spotlights Brooklyn Community Foundation as a positive example of how foundations can effectively engage with their communities, as we have done in our Brooklyn Insights project, Neighborhood Strength resident-led grantmaking model, Brooklyn Youth Activists fellowship, and more (It should be noted that we are a member of NCRP and proud to be a recipient of its 2015 Impact Award):

“In 2014, the Brooklyn Community Foundation launched a community engagement initiative that brought foundation staff and leadership into conversation with nearly 1,000 Brooklyn residents through 30 neighborhood roundtables.The results: The foundation created a 17-member community advisory council, invested $100,000 in community-identified priorities and decided to implement the resident-driven process every year.”

Schlegel highlights the potential for impact when grantmakers and CEOs truly listen to community members and their needs, and position them as collaborators, partners, and decision-makers. Here, decisions can not only be better informed, but can more accurately and effectively address community concerns. Read his full article here.


Jeanne Landers

Communications Intern