Partnering to Build Community Philanthropy: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
At Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, we’ve seen how much more we can accomplish when we work together. Since 1981, community members have shared their commitment to a thriving Pierce County by partnering with GTCF to bring their vision to life and build a legacy for future generations. In our 2018 yearbook, Pierce County Partners, a few of our partners shared their lessons and insights from working to strengthen Pierce County.
“Unless you are trustworthy and have trusting relationships, you can’t move anything in the world. And while our money certainly gets people’s attention, it is the relationships that matter.”
David Bley, director of the Gates Foundation’s Northwest Initiative, shares why the largest funder in the world launched the Building Community Philanthropy cohort for Northwest funders, including GTCF, “When it comes to getting outcomes and impact for communities, we are further from being able to accomplish that than most people because we don’t live in places like Tacoma. Unless you are trustworthy and have trusting relationships, you can’t move anything in the world. And while our money certainly gets people’s attention, it is the relationships that matter. ”
Marie Sauter of the Gates Foundation developed the Building Community Philanthropy program to convene community funders twice a year. Her approach centered around a peer consultation model where funders discussed their communities’ challenges and opportunities with each other, “And the first few times they did that, it was — it even got emotional sometimes. People were afraid to be vulnerable in front of their peers.” Over the past six years, though, the culture of peer consult has become a valuable technique for regional funders to learn and grow with each other.
The biggest lesson local funders gained was the importance of listening to community. GTCF and other participants have amplified community voice and allow that input to guide the work they fund. In turn, the Gates Foundation seeks input from those local organizations to guide their funding decisions. According to David, the Gates Foundation “had as much to learn from our community foundation partners as they had to learn from us.”
The Gates Foundation’s Marie Sauter saw a strong theme emerge for communities across the Northwest, one “centered on racial equity, equity in general, but specifically racial equity. So, when our partners across the state, as well as our own team, look at the challenges and opportunities in our communities, the disproportionate impacts on communities of color stand out again, and again, and again. And the data shows it: quantitative, qualitative, narrative stories, and every which way you slice it. That is what we all are wanting to address more deeply.”
In Pierce County, Marie has seen GTCF be, “a real model from the start about being able to articulate their story, their journey, and development of their community engagement muscle.” The Gates Foundation looks to its partnership with GTCF to better understand local needs and issues. Ultimately, success for funders like the Gates Foundation or GTCF is owned by the community.
Learn more about partnering with GTCF for a stronger Pierce County. Contact GTCF’s Philanthropy department or call 253-383-5622.