On Friday, The Philadelphia Foundation announced that it is marking its centennial year in a novel way — by letting the public decide how to distribute $1 million in funding to regional nonprofits.
The foundation distributes about $20 million annually in grants and scholarships. Of that, about $5 million goes to recipients identified through a staff-led process with the rest recommended by donors, their designees or through a process established by donors. The $1M to be distributed via the Key to Community Grants has a unique process, which is outlined on the website:
“[T]he program will invite regional nonprofits to submit their most innovative, daring and life-changing ideas. After initial vetting by an expert committee, voting will open to the public, with the Philadelphia Foundation inviting Philadelphians in the seven-county area to award first, second and third place to area nonprofits across three categories.”
But what prompted the decision to change up its usual model? And how will it really work? Pedro A. Ramos, president and CEO of the foundation, answered our questions.
Generocity: Give us a sense of the thinking behind the final selection being decided by general public vote.
Pedro Ramos: As the Greater Philadelphia Region’s community foundation, we want to build community and that requires connecting all of our region’s citizens with the organizations making a difference. What better way to do that than to give the public the power to impact some of the ideas and programs that will be happening throughout the seven counties?
We also want to demystify philanthropy by showing people of all backgrounds how easy it can be to get involved and give back, be it through volunteering, giving or getting together with your neighbors and brainstorming an idea to solve a challenge. There is so much good being done in our region, and we not only want to showcase it but also help to accelerate it.
Generocity: This seems like a very equalizing process, but is there any concern that larger, more established nonprofits will have an advantage in the voting because of their name-recognition, as well as their ability to mobilize more people to vote for their project?
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PR: During the public voting phase of the Key to Community Grants, we will be working with all of the finalists to spread the word of their ideas. For example, we’ll be providing social media support to each finalist. We’ll also be showcasing the ideas of each finalist on the forefront of the voting page of our website rather than their name alone so that each finalist can present their own ideas, in video or through words, to the voting public. We will encourage all voters to learn more about the ideas before making their selections.
Generocity: How do you plan to encourage a wide swath of the public to come to your site to vote?
PR: We will be promoting the public voting phase through a robust grassroots campaign. From promotion on our social media channels to promotion among our centennial year corporate partners to promotion among Key to Community grant finalists, our goal is to create buzz in the community and drive votes. We’re also hoping all of the media outlets in our region will help us amplify this buzz through stories on all of the deserving finalists.
Generocity: Do you know already which and how many regional nonprofits you will be asking to apply?
PR: We’re encouraging nonprofits of all types to apply for Key to Community Grants. Specifically, we will be inviting all nonprofits that have been working in the Greater Philadelphia Region for at least three years and also have an annual budget of at least $300,000 to apply. Our goal is to spark innovative ideas to solving challenges and the sky is the limit.-30-
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