Local and National Funders: The Launch of A Conversation

by Andrés Spokoiny

I’m happy to introduce a series of articles about interactions between local and national funders. This series continues a conversation that started at the Jewish Funders Network International Conference held in Los Angeles in March 2013. A panel of philanthropic leaders discussed issues and problems that arise when local and national funders don’t act in a coordinated way.

This lack of coordination can have a deleterious effect on the reach and impact of many community programs, as well as on the quality of funding. In some cases, a larger national funder may miss important information that local funders know, as they live and see first-hand different community issues. Conversely, local funders may focus on the “tree instead of the forest.” They may invest in specific, small-scale programs that may be similar to programs in other communities from which they can learn, or don’t have the benefit that comes from reflecting on the opportunities that a national vision offers. Some believe large-scale national programs are not for them to co-fund. Yet, local projects may directly benefit from national initiatives, so there’s much to gain for local funders in supporting them.

At JFN, we would love to see this conversation continue. We always say our conference is not a “one off” event, but rather a conversation starter. We hope that issues we discussed at the conference will be the starting point for meaningful discussions about issues that impact giving. The panelists, who also wrote the pieces in this series, are important leaders of the philanthropic community and the community at large. It’s a diverse group that represents different angles and points of view. They include: Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, Chair of Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation; Shari L. Edelstein, philanthropic consultant and former Executive Director of 18 Pomegranates; Jeffrey R. Solomon, President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies; and Yossi Prager, Executive Director – North America for The AVI CHAI Foundation. The series begins here with Marcella’s piece.

We hope this diversity steers discussion and debate and, ultimately, helps improve our funding and our communities.

Please, share any feedback or ideas that spring up as you read the material!

Andrés Spokoiny is President and CEO at the Jewish Funders Network.

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