Pathways to Scale for a Place-Based Funder
The VP of program at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation explains how her organization supports local nonprofits.
SUPPLEMENT TO SSIR SPONSORED BY GRANTMAKERS FOR EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATIONS
This special supplement includes eleven perspectives on “scaling what works”—what it means, what it takes to do it right, and what needs to happen to increase the impact of successful solutions to social challenges.
During our 50 years of working to improve the quality of life in communities across our state, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) has learned many lessons about what it takes to increase our impact. We’ve found that three approaches are essential to achieving large-scale impact: partnering across sectors; long-term investment to strengthen grantees; and supporting promising and proven programs.
Partnering across sectors.To solve pressing social problems, it is important to reach across sectors and build partnerships among government, nonprofits, and business. To combat New Hampshire’s rising rates of youth substance abuse, for example, NHCF entered into a 10-year partnership with the state of New Hampshire to co-fund substance-abuse prevention coalitions.
We are also leading a state commission charged with developing a plan to reduce substance use in New Hampshire. Our work on the commission brings state agencies and community partners together around shared goals and measurement systems, and we have leveraged more dollars for evidence-based prevention. We reinforce this work by funding local advocacy efforts promoting policies that prevent youth substance abuse.
NHCF has benefitted from partnerships with the business community as well. When a local technology entrepreneur came to us wondering whether his platform that helps small businesses compete against big chains might benefit the charitable sector, we saw a ready-made opportunity to scale up our efforts to strengthen nonprofits. NHCF partnered with the entrepreneur’s company, CCA Global, and the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits to develop a Web-based platform that provides nonprofits with vetted tools and realtime instruction to improve operations. More than 1,500 nonprofit employees and board members are taking advantage of this platform to make measurable improvements in organizational behavior, board engagement in fundraising, and leadership. This project leveraged CCA Global’s innovative product, the Center for Nonprofits’ relationships and deep knowledge of the sector, and NHCF’s ability to convene and raise significant start-up capital.
One of the ways that New Hampshire Charitable Foundation helps nonprofits increase their impact is by making long-term investments in building grantee infrastructure.
Long-term investment to strengthen grantees. One of the ways that NHCF helps nonprofits increase their impact is by making long-term investments in building grantee infrastructure. Grantees need consistent, multiyear support in order to build strong leadership, effective operations, community partnerships, and the other pieces of infrastructure necessary to scale up impact. This is especially important in the many rural areas of our state, where scaling up programs is more challenging.
An example of how we help New Hampshire nonprofits scale up their impact is our five-year investment in early childhood development. We provided grantees with multiyear funding, built their evaluation capacity, and supported their coming together to establish shared goals and strategies and to learn from each other. This community-driven collaborative has substantially increased the number of young children in northern New Hampshire receiving developmental screening to identify critical needs, from 0 percent to 14 percent. The collaborative’s goal is to reach 100 percent. In another case, we provided three years of flexible support while a grantee worked to complete an evaluation and draft a business plan to expand operations. The grantee is now positioned to seek national funding to grow.
We also leverage federal dollars to build nonprofit infrastructure in New Hampshire and increase resources for areas where the foundation has invested deeply. In the past three years, NHCF helped New Hampshire secure $52 million in federal grants by directly funding grant writers, providing a required state match, or funding collaboration and collective action that attracted multiyear federal grants in areas like substance use, housing redevelopment, and children’s behavioral health.
Supporting promising and proven programs. Our foundation supports proven programs wherever possible, but we will also support promising programs when they are a better fit with local needs and capacities. We intentionally work along a continuum to advance evidence-based practice in our state.
We do so in two ways. First, we fund the development and evaluation of promising local approaches to issues we care about. When a high school program to prevent substance abuse showed promising results and a strong fit with our strategy, we funded implementation in New Hampshire schools and simultaneously co-funded a formal evaluation with state and federal partners.
The second way we advance practice is by bringing knowledge to grantees about how to implement proven programs. We fund a local Center for Excellence that provides grantees with technical assistance to ensure fidelity to evidence-based models or to adapt models without compromising effectiveness, as they did when New Hampshire communities adopted a proven coalition model to reduce youth violence and addiction.
The Path Ahead
Place-based funders like NHCF are a ready-made network for disseminating knowledge about what works and advancing proven practices about how to scale up. We have in-depth knowledge of grantees and the communities they serve that can inform successful efforts to scale up. Looking ahead, we need more accessible co-funding arrangements with national funders that will create a more robust pipeline of scalable initiatives. Philanthropy has a real opportunity, but we need to work together in new ways to create a network for change.