Thanks to an invitation from Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Director of the GLR Support Center Ron Fairchild, I traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia, to present a session on “More than Money Philanthropy” as it plays out in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR).

The audience was Philanthropy West Virginia’s Education Affinity Group (EAG), funders who are committed to advancing the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR). West Virginia is unique among the 300+ communities engaged in CGLR across the nation, in that the Governor made CGLR a priority for all 55 counties. EAG has a wide range of funders, including community, corporate, family and private foundations as well as United Ways, each distinct in their approach. During the highly engaging conversation, we covered how each might embrace roles beyond dollars disbursed to heighten the benefit for their communities—that's impact! 

With The Patterson Foundation’s (TPF) approach of supporting SCGLR in a four-county region, while other local funders focus in their respective counties, TPF takes the role of a regional accelerator. Note that the lead partners in each county also embrace More than Money roles.

Coalition Builder: Change in community happens at the speed of trust, and we have learned how important it is to engage people, business, nonprofits, government, and media to discover shared aspirations. Rather than an event, it is a process—every day in every way.

Backbone: Community engagement must be supported with tactical support, whether in the form of agenda building, meeting logistics, data compilation, or supplying the calories and coffee.

System Realigner: When multi-sectors are discovering and learning together, gaps and overlaps emerge. With those shared aspirations underlying the work, shifts can be made over time.

Communicator: TPF uses the analogy of a “cookie jar” in that each person and organization has rich “cookies” of knowledge and experience. We need to lift the lid off the cookie jars to share and to taste each other’s cookies. In addition to face-to-face convenings, SCGLR has a website including a blog library created by those engaged with SCGLR, newsletters in English and Spanish, and a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. TPF has created Aspirations Journalism in partnership with the Herald-Tribune so that stories around the CGLR pillars—0-5 early childhood development, reducing chronic absenteeism, summer learning loss, parent/family engagement, and health—are shared with the community.

Policy Advocate: One of the benefits of being part of the nationwide CGLR, is the expert knowledge of what works. Local funders have the opportunity to educate their community, including elected officials and policymakers on practices that can improve the well-being of children and families.

Learning Agent: TPF embraces connecting, learning, sharing, evolving, and strengthening. With data and stories from our communities, SCGLR continues to help each sector appreciate both possibilities and realities. First, we must listen, then understand, then act.

Fundraiser: While some funders, such as United Ways and community foundations work with donors all the time, other funders can also “fundraise” by inviting those with resources to participate in the CGLR movement. SCGLR has attracted service clubs, businesses, and donors to use their resources for efforts that align with their aspirations.

Grantmaker: Yes, effectively deploying dollars is part of every funder’s role, but in reality, the other ways that funders engage can be even more valued.

At the conclusion of my part of the CGLR presentation, it brought a smile to my face when one funder said, “it must be fun to work with TPF.” Yes, we all do important work and find joy in the many ways we can make a difference.


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