Photo: Ralph Smith

Does Giving More of What We Have, Get Us Close to What We Need?

Posted on October 17, 2022 by Connor LaGrange, TPF Fellow 2021/23

This question was posed at the 2022 Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) Community Update Breakfast (CUB).

During the CUB, Ralph Smith, managing director of the national
Campaign for Grade-Level Reading discussed a myriad of topics regarding the advancement of the movement. He highlighted the Suncoast Campaign’s efforts and shared ways SCGLR is a model for others in the country. A few ideas he spotlighted are fantastic reminders as we continue pursuing excellence and striving to better our communities.

Is our organization an umbrella? Or a trampoline?
It comes across as an odd question to pose. Which rarely used inanimate object do you define yourself as? It seems more akin to an initial job interview inquiry than directed at an organization. The question is a much more thoughtful one than it may appear on the surface.

Does our organization keep creativity, evolution, or nimbleness under an umbrella with no chance for growth or acceleration? Do we hide behind “the way it has always been” and suppress freshness? Or do we work to catapult ideas, programs, and people into the stratosphere to see how far they can go? One has a way of stagnating community growth but is safe; the other is far riskier but has the chance to change the course of history for our communities.

One way an organization can be a trampoline is to propel programming forward that may be non-traditional. We must never do this in a way that is fiscally irresponsible to our organization or constituents, but the space of philanthropy allows us to take risks other sectors may not be able to. Creative solutions to complex problems allow us within the philanthropic sector to strive for a multi-pronged approach to community change.

Are we a group of people and organizations who admit and then commit?
Every community around the globe faces obstacles. Each is unique and specific to an area, but all are similar in how they can stunt a community’s ability to strive for shared aspirations. One tactic we can use to meet each obstacle head-on is to ensure we are admitting what our challenges are and then committing to finding their solution. We can, at times, acknowledge the problems our communities face and then choose not to do anything about it. Or, maybe even worse, tackle an issue in isolation. We must find a balance and do both well.

Does giving more of what we have, get us close to what our communities need?
Sometimes our response as funders is to continue giving in the same ways we always have. Same programs, same causes, same style of grant-making/funding, etc. We have this odd thought that more of what we do/have will get us over the hump. We attempt to move the needle using the same resources which haven’t shifted the narrative to date. More of what we have typically does not get us close to what we need. How can we evolve our organizations and offerings to pursue partnerships which will help us inspire change rather than spin our wheels?

These three topics used to describe the movement that is the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading also can be guideposts to think about all of the “work.” They also apply to every TPF initiative…and hopefully resonate with readers of this blog. Yes, let us continue to strive for families and communities to thrive.


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