Grants from philanthropic organizations can be a great catalyst for local action, but no amount of external support can substitute for the ongoing commitment of your coalition partners. The systemic change required to build an effective talent-development engine can’t really be bought. And even if it could, the change won’t happen overnight or during a foundation’s annual grant cycle. Such change takes years to occur—and even longer to sustain.
Think about this as you form and fill out your partnership. Look for stability, steadfastness, and long-term commitment—in the partner organizations you approach and in the individuals who represent those organizations. Overall, it is the cross-sector partnership that needs to be sustained. You must invest in the collaboration—in the system—not just its parts.
A support grant from a philanthropic organization can acknowledge and encourage the collaborative work that communities are already doing and leverage what’s already working. It gives these communities a designation that they can further leverage to replicate and scale efforts and to attract yet more resources and support. Successful talent-building communities do this. For every grant dollar they have received, they have brought in several more in additional funding. The very structure of a talent community—a network for improvement—is designed for sustainability.
In New York, CUNY has leveraged at least $3.2 million from its efforts, including $1 million for adult learner initiatives and pilots. Detroit has secured a $765,000 grant to improve outreach and supports for the “some college, no degree” population, particularly through employer engagement and by providing technical assistance to community colleges adopting institutional reforms. The 14 Missouri colleges that have joined the St. Louis effort will broaden the impact of their work and ensure its sustainability beyond the life of the grant. And in Albuquerque, the United Way of Central New Mexico’s “Mission: Graduate” led a planning grant to explore how the new federal SIPPRA grants could help scale and sustain Graduate ABQ. The United Way has further foundation funding to support a required match for a SIPPRA application and its work within a six-state consortium.
The creation of student pathways by colleges in Boston (Bunker Hill Community College and the University of Massachusetts Boston) led to an innovation grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, which allows the colleges to add to the work in a number of ways. The grant also supports equity-based curricular work and the development of a system for sharing data.