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Funders Forum

The Clark Foundation

August 2012

The Clark Foundation, based in New York City, supports primarily local nonprofit organizations and programs in the fields of education, human services, employment, and children/youth services, specifically those that serve economically disadvantaged youth. The Foundation Center asked Douglas Bauer, the foundation's executive director:

Question What lessons can foundations learn from nonprofits about collaboration, including partnering with their fellow grantmakers to more effectively allocate resources, reduce administrative costs, and strengthen their impact? What strategies have you found helpful in pursuing your program areas?

Answer "There is more collaborative activity among foundations happening than I think most people realize; there's been a rise in collaborative efforts, many of which have been driven by economic necessity. We've really had to come together to collaborate and pool resources to better support the nonprofits that we work with. Exciting conversations and collaborative efforts are continuing to occur both at the informal and formal level.

"The Clark Foundation is an active member of formal working groups and collaborative funds, such as those organized by Philanthropy New York and New York Community Trust. We also remain in continuous conversation, both formally and informally, with other foundations in New York City dedicated to poverty issues to ensure that our resources are complementary and not competitive. I've been very impressed at how much our colleagues have been sharing information; I think that we realize that our resources are even more finite than they've ever been and therefore we have to be even more thoughtful in how we utilize them.

"In terms of practices and environments that foster collaborative work, I think that regional associations like Philanthropy New York have been instrumental in nurturing and fostering better communication and collaboration among its membership. For example, there's an education working group, a children's issue working group — things like this are helpful in cultivating important informal conversations that lead to more formal collaborative opportunities.

"As per strategies that the Clark Foundation found helpful in pursuing program areas, first, as a strategy, we are huge fans of providing general operating support. About 80 percent of our grants, in fact, go towards general operating support and the average grant size is about $120,000. To me, if you're going to support a nonprofit in this current environment, the best way you can do that is through general operating support because they are the most flexible dollars that you can provide to a nonprofit. It is vital to the sector and we have to keep talking about it. The second strategy that we are huge supporters of — and one of the largest funders of in New York City — is management training and technical assistance. If you can wed management training and technical assistance thoughtfully and strategically with the right grantee, it can make an enormous difference in how they operate and manage their work. It's the well-managed nonprofit that survives the current economic and political environment that we're in. The nonprofits that understand the environment that they are working in, adapt to it, and implement effective ways to deploy their resources and will move forward. Management training and technical assistance help nonprofits achieve their mission."

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