A Philanthropist's Guide to Working with Government and Local Communities

Publication date: 
August, 2014

Whether your philanthropy quest is to end homelessness, fight poverty, enable gender and racial equality, lower teen pregnancy rates, or provide a path to college for disadvantaged youth, government funding and policy are bound to affect your results. This is especially true in today's climate of fiscal austerity and political polarization.

As an example, consider work towards ending homelessness. Chances are that any homeless shelter you would choose to fund draws most of its revenue from government and is seeing that revenue steadily decline, which puts more pressure on its already unsteady finances. Even if a particular nonprofit has foregone government funding, as some do, it will now be seeking private funding in a much more competitive philanthropic market as peer organizations seek to backfill shrinking public funds

Since success in philanthropy often depends on working with or around government, we've put together advice on how to approach these collaborations. The first section covers some promising approaches to how philanthropy can work in partnership with, or to accelerate the work of government. The second discusses how some innovative city leaders and their partners are using data to make headway on social progress and ways philanthropists can help. The third discusses community collaboratives, through which leaders from government, nonprofit, philanthropy, and business are truly moving the needle on challenging social issues—and how they're making that happen.

This report contains three sections:

  • Three Approaches to Working with and Around Government
  • Geek Cities: How Data is Fostering Social Progress
  • How Some Community Collaboratives Are Moving the Needle on Change