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The Community Foundation Blog


Donors reflect on in-depth group learning experience
By KateGibson / February 6, 2020
Donors reflect on in-depth group learning experience

Last fall, the Community Foundation brought together a small cohort of donors for “Giving Together Insights”—a new annual engagement program that combines deep-dive learning, best practices for strategic giving, and an opportunity for collective giving. This first cohort centered around afterschool programming, or Out-of-School Time (OST) – a Community Foundation investment focus area.

Over the course of several weeks, the group met with community leaders, nonprofits and Foundation staff to gain a comprehensive understanding of the community challenges and opportunities when building a high-quality afterschool system in the city of Richmond.

Gaining Insight

“I didn’t fully appreciate the afterschool challenge before this program," said Patty Merrill, who participated in Giving Together Insights. "I had heard about all the pieces and parts but could not see how all the people and programs fit together and the importance of creating an integrated system. You need to understand the whole picture to help guide how you contribute.

“I’ve always been drawn to and involved in service, but I now have a better understanding of the bigger picture for the community and myself. It’s really challenging as an individual to figure out where you fit in. I’m now paying attention to what’s happening in the community differently and am much more comfortable with the power of my own voice.”    

Learning from the Experts

Through this program, cohort participants:

  • Learned from a nationally recognized expert and local funders about trends in OST and why this work is imperative to the success of our region;
  • Assessed their own current giving, values and community interests with the Giving Back Guide;
  • Met with local OST Systems Coordinator Shanelle Ebanks, who works with foundations, program providers and the schools to facilitate their efforts to better serve children and families who otherwise may not have an opportunity to participate in quality afterschool and summer programming; and
  • Embarked on site visits with three nonprofits delivering different types of afterschool programming in the City: the YMCA of Metro Richmond at J.L. Francis Elementary School, NextUp at Henderson Middle School, and Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation at Powhatan Community Center.

“I was pleased to learn how important afterschool programs are for education and shaping the student’s attitudes about school, and that the afterschool programs provide important life skills that are sorely missing from the SOL driven classroom experience—it’s not just play time,” said Eric Sundberg, a Giving Together Insights participant.

“I really enjoyed learning about the variety of programs that NextUp offers, and how they are creating efficiencies to help improve the exposure of students to a wide variety of programs and taking over a lot of the provider administrative burdens," he continued. "The students have opportunity to blossom and start to think on their own. And they learn about teamwork, creativity, and the opportunity to build diverse friendships.”

Supporting the Work

During the closing session of the program, the cohort reflected on what they learned and how they might evolve their own giving, and they were tasked with deciding who would receive their collective “Giving Together Insights Gift.” Through discussion, debate and a democratic framework, the group ultimately decided to split their $20,000 gift—$10,000 would go to the Out-of-School Time Fund to advance the collaborative system work happening in the region, and $10,000 would go to Parks and Recreation for their OST programs.  

“The sensitivity Parks and Rec has to the total community is impressive, and the personal stories shared by the coaches and students were compelling and illustrated the relationships necessary and effective for this type of work,” shared Mark Wheless, who participated in the cohort. “This program was very informative and an opportunity to get detail views of operations not normally available.”

What's next?

In fall 2020, we will offer another “Giving Together Insights” program, this time focused on the topic of Affordable Housing. If you’d like to learn more, once more details are available, please fill out this interest form.

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