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So what about catalytic and transformative philanthropy?


posted February 23, 2016

Recently, I was re-reading an article on philanthropy from Forbes (October 8, 2012), and, in particular, Bill Gates’ ideas on catalytic philanthropy. He says that “philanthropy’s role is to get things started… Good ideas need evangelists. Forgotten communities need advocates. And whether your chief resource is volunteer time or hard-earned dollars, for a relatively small investment, catalytic philanthropy can make a big impact. For me it’s proven to be the best job in the world, as thrilling and humbling as anything I’ve ever done.”

So what? How can this relate to us, in our corner of the world?

Last year, we had a meeting with four folks in Ellsworth. Ellsworth is the northern most community in Antrim County. Folks there are very proud of their schools. They are the “headwaters” of the chain of lakes and the beginning of last year’s inaugural Paddle Antrim. They do not have a grocery. They didn’t have a restaurant until a group of community citizens came together, created a nonprofit organization and opened a restaurant that also serves as a community meeting place. They do have a great deal of pride and hope for their future.

Last May, we made a $1,250 grant to support the Village of Ellsworth in planning work for its future. We encouraged the folks we were working with to approach Rotary Charities for a planning grant and we also connected with Rotary Charities to let them know we had suggested this and recommended they join us in supporting this effort. Fast forward to now and Rotary Charities did provide a grant and there is currently a planning process underway.

A relatively small grant for a very small community. And most of us will never experience the benefit. But for Ellsworth, the work being done today could very well be a difference maker for the Ellsworth of the future. Our grant to the Village of Ellsworth, the additional support it leveraged, and, more importantly, the work that community is undertaking, is one – albeit somewhat small – example of what Bill Gates spoke about.

At your Community Foundation we have the privilege of engaging in catalytic and transformative philanthropy every day. And, the beauty for us is that we get to see this kind of philanthropy take shape in many ways – whether supporting environmental preservation, helping a student attend college, supporting so many of our local nonprofits, or a planning process in Ellsworth – we truly are helping to support strong, vibrant, and healthy communities AND we get to do it today and for generations to come.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Ellis, Ph.D., Community Foundation Executive Director
e: plellis@gtrcf.org | p: 231-935-4066

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