Foundation leaders have a lot of responsibilities and contribute to communities in very significant ways. Most notable, foundation leaders select nonprofit organizations to provide donations to. These donations cover operational expenses and help nonprofits achieve their missions. Having a bird's eye view of the nonprofit landscape can be helpful. However, there are many essential aspects to nonprofit work that are not explored from this perspective. Given the opportunity, foundation leaders should put boots on the ground and volunteer at nonprofit organizations to get a deeper, more meaningful understanding of how organizations impact communities.
Gaining Hands on Experience
Looking at photos and reading articles about the beach is an entirely different experience than visiting and spending time there. It can then be implied that giving a donation and putting in the time by volunteering at a nonprofit would offer a more in-depth experience too. Not only do you have to take time out of your day to spend time with the nonprofit, but you get to experience how your organization is benefiting from your donation firsthand by packing boxes, organizing books, delivering groceries, or serving food. Foundation leaders can get a hands-on experience of how their dollars are making a difference in the lives of people that need them the most. Beyond the nonprofits you serve, find community based events led by those communities your dollars impact. Looking at it from just the perspective of your grant partners might not give you the entire picture of the complexity of issues that the community faces. Spend time talking to them, working hand-in-hand with them, and humanizing them and your understanding.
Understanding the Complexities of Social Issues
Once you spend more time in the community, you'll understand the issue you are working to solve. Many questions may rise like: Is this issue more complex than we initially thought; does this organization need additional support; how can I help; and the list can go on. Your priorities might shift, strengthen, or redirect all benefits of gaining a new perspective of your nonprofit's mission.
Like all relationships, the time you put into it can only strengthen your connection, which may lead to a greater sense of responsibility to its mission. Holding yourself accountable for solving the problems you know your foundation can solve. Essentially walking the walk and talking the talk.
There's so much to gain from spending more time at the nonprofits you're supporting. You'll step away from a birds-eye view of the nonprofit landscape and gain in-depth experience. You'll have a chance to learn more about the complexities of the social issues you're trying to solve, which may help you redirect your priorities. All the time you are spending at your nonprofit can help strengthen your relationship and your responsibilities to the nonprofits and communities you are supporting.