Reflections from Anne Gloger on where philanthropists fit into The Connected Community Approach
Several months ago while I was giving a presentation on the effectiveness of the Connected Community Approach in building social capital, a woman stopped me shortly after I began: “Where are the philanthropists in this approach?” she asked. At the time, I answered that they were everywhere because they donated to multiple initiatives in the community. While this answer wasn’t exactly wrong, after reflection, I realize, that it was incomplete.
In the Connected Community Approach, everyone’s strengths and assets matter. In the iconic graphic illustrating the Connected Community Approach, a Community Backbone Organization connects, convenes and supports the work of people in the community, local change makers and policy and sector players. Philanthropists could indeed fall into any of these categories, however, the more I think about it and the more I spend time with friend and fundraising consultant, Cathy Mann, I think that there is an excellent case for philanthropists who invest in connected communities to be identified, along with grassroots leaders and non-profit organizations as local change makers. Here’s why.
Two decades ago, Dip Habib, Storefront Manager of Volunteers and I went to a local church to give a talk on the East Scarborough Storefront. We spoke about 40 resident groups and social sector organizations coming together in the face of the endless cuts of the Mike Harris government, to find a new and collaborative “by the community for the community” solution to the appalling lack of services in East Scarborough. We spoke about how this innovation became The Storefront and how The Storefront was created using an “emergent” approach in which residents were consulted each step of the way in a format we call Community Speaks. At the end of the talk there was a few seconds of silence, broken by one woman who spoke words I have tried to live up to ever since: “I wish the world were run the way you run The Storefront”.
Shortly thereafter, in 2005 The Storefront’s “by the community for they community” service hub, after only four years of operation, was threatened. The federal government announced drastic (90%) cuts to The Storefront’s budget and, simultaneously, the mall where The Storefront was housed gave notice of eviction due to redevelopment.
Philanthropists from faith communities across East Scarborough, under the umbrella of The Caring Alliance invested the $60k that at the time kept us going while we navigated the unexplored territory of a collaborative funders table (another great story), a community Save Our Storefront march (also a great story) and, ultimately the move to the old police station at 4040 Lawrence. Without philanthropists, The Storefront, and ultimately the Connected Community Approach would not exist. (See a brief history of The Storefront and our KGO neighbourhood)
Reflecting on this story, made me realize that philanthropists who donate to connected communities are investors. They aren’t the “haves” giving to the “have nots”, they are joining a collective effort to change that narrative. They are investing in a world where assets are defined in many ways, and everyone has them and uses them to the best of their ability to create strong, vibrant and resilient communities.
When the Caring Alliance donated to The Storefront they were investing in creating a community where everyone is an agent of change, including themselves.
So, if asked again, where philanthropists fit in the Connected Community Approach, I will say that philanthropists are among the local change makers investing their assets in the world they want to see.
Thank-you Cathy Mann, Nadia Heyd, Sharon Avery and Julia Howell, for helping me to intentionally explore philanthropy and connected communities. For more reflections please listen to this fabulous podcast series on Shift Disturbers in the world of philanthropy. In #8 Cathy Mann and I explore other parts of the Storefront story and the role philanthropy has played, and the implications for connected community investment as we move forward…together.
Listen to the Podcast: The Reluctant Fundraiser
Cathy Mann, a long time friend, and professional fundraiser for over 25 years, sat down with East Scarborough Storefront’s Anne Gloger to discuss the history and evolution of The Storefront and Centre for Connected Communities.
“In this episode of the “It doesn’t hurt to ask” podcast, Cathy chats with Anne Gloger of East Scarborough Storefront and the Centre for Connected Communities. Anne speaks about her journey from being a “reluctant fundraiser” towards seeing funders as true partners in the work of community building. Together they discuss the challenges of making “magic” visible to donors.”