Experts for Optimy: Community foundations & Request management

community foundation invest in local community and people holding hands

Today we will hand it over to Vittoria Burton, Chairman of Fondazione di Comunità del Canavese and member of Assifero national council, the national membership association of Italian grant-making foundations and private institutional philanthropy. She will share her views on community philanthropy, community foundations and funding request management.

Now over to Vittoria:

The purpose of Fondazione di Comunità del Canavese is to develop the culture of giving and the support of development and innovation of local welfare, using resources collected throughout the area. It is more specifically focused on the inclusion, integration, and support of disadvantaged people who are at risk of social exclusion or have difficulties with autonomy.

Vittoria, can you tell us about community foundations? How and where do they operate? Are they common outside of Italy as well?

The purpose of a community foundation is to involve the community. As we don’t require large contributions (i.e. 30 euros/year), every single citizen can contribute to the financing of activities, this promotes a wider involvement.

In Italy, community foundations come from banks, such as banca Cariplo in Piemonte, and they operate throughout the country. These kinds of communities function as the driving force in terms of local cohesion, their goal is to bring different members together, contributing both with financial resources and intangible ones (i.e. visibility, management skills, etc.)

Community philanthropy and community foundations originated outside of Italy, specifically in the USA and Canada, in the past century and were introduced in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. Interestingly, community foundations are nowadays developing in Southern countries as a tool to develop cooperation. Evidence of this phenomenon is the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the beginning of December 2016, in which we registered a strong involvement (over 300 delegates from 60 – mostly Southern – countries).

How many projects do you support annually and which activities will you focus on this year?

Our plan for 2017 is to support 10 projects (five-year plan), we will mostly focus on social plans that aim to promote community consciousness and to support new kinds of poverty.

How do you select projects?

Each year, we launch a call for proposals, this allows us to collect project proposals. We then personally meet those who have applied. Occasionally, after the first review, the project can seem patchy. This usually happens because people, especially the ones belonging to small organisations, do not know how to write a project. That is why we work hard to meet the promoters in person, in order to better understand the core points of their requests. This often helps us discover that a simple proposal can potentially hide something more. We have opted for this direct methodology as it allows us to be operative and close to the community.

Which criteria do you use to determine the success of a project?

Our main point of interest when dealing with a project is the related benefit to the community as well as the quality of relationships the project can create. Let us look at the example of a project proposal to establish a neighbourhood clinic: our interest would not just be related to the number of users that will benefit from this service, but also to the number of volunteers involved, the project’s level of awareness and the amount of people willing to commit and support to it.

Do you think project management has changed over the years? Do you lean on new technologies to simplify your task management? If yes, what are the benefits?

As our organisation is still young, we cannot yet properly say we have experienced change. However, we have experienced the benefits brought about by the use of technology. We use a grant management software that simplifies our grant collection and management. Thanks to the technologies we use and the internet, our projects have gained something more, as has our foundation. Our visibility has grown and more people know us and what our activities are.

Our Takeaways

#1 Community foundations originated in the USA and Canada at the beginning of the last century. They are now widespread in England and in developing countries as a tool for development cooperation.

#2 Community foundations represent a tool for local cohesion, whose aim is to bring different members together and to share more than financial resources.

#3 Community impact and quality are the key factors to select and support a project and to determine its success.

#4 Technology is changing philanthropy by simplifying project management and promoting foundations’ visibility, both for small and big organisations. 

About Vittoria Burton 

Vittoria burton .jpg

Chairman and member of the Executive Committee, Vittoria Burton is a graduate in psychology at Cardiff University and has a master’s degree in Sociology of immigration and Cross-cultural psychology at Università Cà Foscari di Venezia. She has been working in the social cooperation field (both on a national and international level) for the past 20 years, as a project manager, a promoter and coordinator of social services. Her areas of expertise are educational and recreational services for children, minors and families. She is currently responsible for the planning and development at Consorzio Copernico di Ivrea. 

Image source: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash