Community Foundations & Philanthropy Advisors


The philanthropy advising space is getting crowded.  Community Foundations are experiencing first hand the shift in the market as more institutions establish Donor Advised Funds (DAF), and more private family and multi-family offices engage philanthropy advisors to work on the social capital questions with their clients.

What role do independent philanthropy advisors play in the community foundation context?  We support community foundations in the areas of research and leveraging relationships with other donors to drive greater impact.

On average we spend about 10 hours profiling a charity in addition to the site visits and ongoing relationship building.  We look at six core indicators based on Jim Collins’ book Good to Great and an article by Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Creating High Impact Organizations” (see article attached).

In the case of one client we mapped out their overall social objectives and what the best vehicle to achieve the short-term and longer-term goals:

  • determining the vehicle - DAF, Private Foundation or Charitable Trust

  • getting their fund off the ground,

  • building relationships with a few organizations

  • identifying the systemic issues that they want to address

  • creating a portfolio of giving that will be executed overtime

This is leading to their legacy plan:

  • the role of their children and grandchildren within the foundation

  • the execution timeline (do they want to support the projects in perpetuity?)

For example, in the case of this one client, they are a couple who are interested in fostering Jewish identity and informal

education.  The issue that they are tackling is around accessibility to affordable Jewish education and engagement with the broader community.  There are several organizations that are addressing this issue from day schools to summer camps to religious organizations.  The couple decided that the solutions they wanted to fund needed to reach as many people as possible, not be tied to a specific denomination and be embraced by the community as a whole.  A tall order when it comes to Jewish education in Canada.

Our research connected us to the a projected called PJ Library that was started by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (a philanthropist who recently joined the “Giving Pledge").  PJ Library is modeled after the Imagination Library that Dolly

PJ Library

Parton launched in Tennessee.  What makes this project interesting, unique and successful is how they have connected with local philanthropists to maximize the impact of program.  Mr. Grinspoon commits to funding 50% of the project costs and it is up to the local community to fund the other half.  Since launching this program in Massachusetts the organization has grown from 200 families receiving FREE books every month to a global movement that is using literacy and parent engagement to teach social values of charity, community engagement and tikun olam.  Even though it started as a Jewish initiative, it has been so successful, that the program expanded into Arab communities in Israel.  Books are now printed in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic and delivered and has created a market for children’s literature in a publishing industry that has seen a decrease in market-share. More importantly, because Mr. Grinspoon has made the program implementation in a community dependant on other philanthropists the ownership and success is spread out.  

The role of the philanthropy advisor in this relationship was to make the connections through the various agencies and develop the overall charitable plan that includes, not only PJ Library but several other programs addressing the issue of Jewish education, when in combination can drive measured results.  

Attachment Size
Creating High Impact Organizations- Stanford Social Innovation Reveiw Fall 2007 (3).pdf 490.28 KB


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