I’ve always believed that it’s much better to do things with others than to do them alone. When considering making a grant at MFF, one of the first things we look at is, Who else is funding the project? With more people at the table, the project will likely be much better and stronger. No one has ever solved a really big problem alone. As the saying goes, It takes a Village!
When John and I were learning how to give away money, we gained great insight and knowledge from the people at our local community foundation. I joined the board, which gave me a behind-the-curtain view of the community’s needs and the role nonprofits were playing. Because the community foundation had already vetted great projects, I trusted their advice on which grants they believed were worth funding. From those projects, John and I could choose the ones that spoke directly to us.
Today, our primary co-funding partners—we also call them network partners—are Draper, Richards, Kaplan (DRK), Stand Together and United Way. We especially like these organizations because they selectively pull together like minded funders from the nonprofit, government and industry sectors to support a project, and they stay involved. (This approach is different from crowdfunding, which attracts hundreds or even thousands of unrelated donors to a single project.)
Stand Together’s vision is for a society where every person can realize their potential and live a life of meaning. We work with them because our values are aligned. Their three pillars—believing in people, empowering people, and working together where there is common ground—are very similar to ours.
United Way operates worldwide and locally, to strengthen education, economic mobility and health. We believe these issues are critical to building equitable communities where everyone can thrive. Mile High United Way has given us early access to some great disruptive projects.
DRK invests in and provides rigorous, ongoing support to early-stage organizations, in a wide variety of sectors. DRK also assigns a representative to serve on the board of directors of a nonprofit to help build the board’s capacity. DRK has shown us, time and time again, that they are willing to hop on a phone call with nonprofit leaders we’ve met, and to help figure out whether their projects are the right fit for us.
Here are three projects that are thriving now, thanks to co-funding between MFF and others.
Recidiviz is a great and growing organization that makes communities safer. They partner with state criminal justice agencies to use data to help reduce the number of people in prison and under supervision. Our one-time grant of $50,000 is bringing the program to Colorado along with support from Stand Together and DRK.
Imagine Worldwide works in the lowest-income countries across Africa to bring tech-enabled numeracy and literacy to millions of children. Thanks to DRK, our one-time commitment of $150,000 is supporting the launch of BEFIT, a program that will bring 80,000 tablets — and 3,500 solar panels that will power them — to Malawi.
During COVID, Right on Mobile Education (ROME) brought Denver’s first mobile preschool to the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea (GES) neighborhoods. Thanks to their partnership with Mile High United Way, the school operated in a fully renovated airport shuttle turned classroom on wheels, so at-risk children could continue their early learning while staying safe.
Over many years, we have learned that working with co-funders—and developing trust in them over time—can save millions of dollars and countless hours of precious time. All of our co-funders are interested in having a two-way relationship with us. This means that besides bringing projects to us, they want to hear our ideas. When we find a nonprofit we are really excited about, we can ask our co-funding partners to meet with the leaders and help us decide if a project is ready for funding. If they are really excited, they might even bring that nonprofit into their portfolio and attract other funders to the table.
We encourage you not to go down the road alone. Expand your reach and your impact by partnering with other donors. You will gain valuable insight on expanding the project while achieving the most impact possible.
In Every Gift Matters, I talk more about co-funding. Visit MFF Publishing here.