May 12, 2013

Our View: Joining forces, charitable groups extend their reach

Environmental Funders Network members found they could do more by working together.

Over a three-year period, 20 Maine foundations awarded nearly $19 million to more than 200 organizations to work on environmental issues.

This gave some people in the philanthropic community an idea: What impact could they have had if the gifts had been coordinated?

The result was the Environmental Funders Network and its Quality of Place Initiative, which pooled resources from 27 donors and distributed $1.5 million to 16 projects that affect the environment in ways that one funder acting alone may not have thought of.

The initiative was inspired by the 2006 Brookings Institution report "Charting Maine's Future," which identified Maine's unspoiled countryside and historic downtowns as potential drivers of the state's economy.

The new network brought funders who were interested in developing and preserving those assets together with the groups that were doing the work. The results were surprising.

Projects that may not have been seen as environmental received funding, including one that supported farmers and preserved open space by helping low-income people buy locally grown produce.

The funders network created the opportunity for collaborations like these to happen. It also provides a model for other groups looking to make the biggest splash possible.

 

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