Knowing What’s Best

August 7, 2012

In 2009, the famous philanthropist George Soros (pictured) announced a $35 million initiative to provide a $200 cash payment to every child in a poor family to help with the purchase of school supplies and clothing at the start of school year.  Critics suggested Soros should distribute gift cards for specific businesses, such as clothing suppliers.  Soros disagreed.  He said that parents knew what was best for their children. Whether they used the money for a dental visit or for note books, Soros believed in letting the parents decide their child’s highest need.

Providing unrestricted support is at the heart of the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s IMPACT program. In 2009, the program’s first year, the Foundation had $1 million to grant to nonprofits struggling in the financial environment of the time. Anticipating 100 or so applications, we received over 400 applications requesting nearly $12 million, which reflected the tremendous needs within our community. Through a rigorous evaluation process, the program staff reviewed and scored each application and conducted individual site visits to top scoring organizations. Then, through what I can only describe as a labor of love, our program team and grants committee came to an agreement on the final list of grantees who would receive unrestricted grants averaging $20,000.

As a member of the Foundation’s development staff who assisted in vetting the IMPACT proposals that year, I had the rare opportunity to observe the power of effective grantmaking first-hand, which has completely shifted my perspective as a grant recipient.  I also came to understand the power of unrestricted grants because the nonprofit leaders would know best how to spend these precious resources. Thus, the very kind of grantmaking Mr. Soros would have endorsed.

The deadline for IMPACT 2012 was July 30. The Foundation received 171 letters of intent with approximately $500,000 to award. For more information on the IMPACT Program, please contact Josephine Everly or click here.

Written by Josephine Everly, Senior Development Officer for the Greater New Orleans Foundation.