Joint Giving Circle Event: Greater Together: A Look Ahead

More than 70 members of Hartford Foundation’s Black Giving Circle Fund, Catalyst Endowment Fund, and Latino Endowment Fund came together to hear more about the Hartford Foundation’s new strategic framework and discuss how this new focus will impact the work of their respective giving circles.

After updates from members of the three steering committees, Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams offered a detailed overview of the Hartford Foundation’s next three-year strategic plan, which will be focused on equity and will address disparities in race, place and income which, in our region, are all interconnected.

As it develops new strategies to alleviate these disparities, the Foundation is working to develop ways to measure impact and demonstrate outcomes. 

Williams shared the Foundation’s new strategic priority areas, which include:

  • Education and skill attainment: From Birth to Career
  • Community Safety
  •  Community and Economic Development

 Williams discussed how the development of the new strategic plan is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of conversations with stakeholders and constituents from around the region, as well as extensive data review on our communities.  Using data to illustrate some of the striking disparities among Greater Hartford, Williams emphasized that many of these disparities are based primarily on a person’s race, place of residence and income.  He pointed out that with a region of 29 towns, including the state’s capitol, the Hartford Foundation has a significant stake in the region and in our state.

Williams stressed the fact that while some of the focus and strategies might be changing, the Foundation’s mission and core values are not. However, he emphasized that some things must change and that the Foundation must continue to evolve if it is going to remain impactful and relevant.

Williams discussed the structural challenges that have existed in this society for years – some visible, some not. He expressed the Foundation’s commitment to equity and the need to address the disparities driven by and animated by race, place and income. The Foundation wants to better align its resources to become a high performing organization that continues its effective fiscal stewardship, which ultimately allows the Foundation to be a vital resource to the community with a demonstrable impact.

Williams also shared two new community resources that will contribute to the region’s growth and success. HFPG Impact! Greater Hartford puts a greater portion of the Foundation’s assets to work for the 29 towns it serves -- catalyzing community and economic development in ways that lift up all residents and maximize the region’s growth and quality of life.  HFPG Impact! Greater Hartford is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hartford Foundation created to engage in this new way of working. By establishing a separate corporation, the Foundation has extensive flexibility, through partnerships or on its own, to make investments beyond the scope and range of the Foundation’s traditional grantmaking. HFPG Impact! Greater Hartford investments are separate from, and in addition to, the Foundation’s 93-plus year history of traditional grantmaking. 

Williams also highlighted the new Greater Together Community Funds that establishes 29 separate $100,000 community funds, one for each of the towns in the Foundation’s region. These funds were the direct result of feedback from the Foundation’s region-wider Greater Together Listening Tour where many residents expressed the need for additional resources to respond to pressing community needs.

After Williams’ presentation, the giving circle members participated in table talk discussions focused on how the Foundation’s new strategic plan would affect the work of each group. While there were a wide variety of discussions, questions and comments, there were a number of reoccurring themes. Several of the tables expressed their enthusiasm about the Foundation’s new emphasis on economic and community development and impact investing.  Giving circle members asked about how to use their own expertise to assist the Foundation in this work.

Another point brought up by several tables was the importance of authentically engaging residents in order to determine what their needs are and what types of programs or services they are looking for. Williams emphasized the fact that this type of engagement is something the Foundation plans to do a lot more of throughout the region in order to better address the needs of the community. This engagement could include developing more opportunities for giving circle members to work with young people in the community through mentorships.

An issue that was raised was the role of smaller neighborhood-based nonprofits in different communities and how they could be better engaged in the new strategic focus areas. Williams discussed the ongoing work the Foundation is doing to support smaller nonprofits and discussed the fact that some of these organizations were already being engaged in some of the new strategic work. He said the Foundation welcomes the opportunity to work with giving circle members interested in developing deeper connections between the Hartford Foundation and smaller nonprofit organizations. Williams discussed how the Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) is going to be shifting its focus to build capacity amongst those nonprofit organizations that are working in strategic priority areas.He discussed that many of the small grassroots organizations play a significant role in many of these areas and NSP will seek to work with them directly to provide them additional resources to make a bigger impact.

Several people appreciated the Foundation’s efforts to develop ways to measure impact. Individuals discussed the fact that there is a wide range of different organizations that are all working in the community to create positive solutions. They discussed how the Foundation could take a more proactive role in bringing these groups together to share their work and find areas where the might collaborate to be more efficient and effective in their work.

Overall, those in attendance were receptive to the Foundation’s new strategic focus areas and thought it will be helpful in raising up the work of the giving circles, as well as the Foundation, throughout the region. Many people discussed how the focus on these three specific areas creates opportunities to think about their own giving circle’s grantmaking and prioritize what they wanted to support.