Part 1: We Begin
The start of a new year is often a time for resolutions, goal-setting, and sometimes even change. This year, we at Rose Community Foundation are undertaking a strategic planning process, guided first and foremost by the following questions: What does our community need us to be today and over the next five years? And, how can we align and adapt our approach to best serve the Greater Denver area in an era that is defined in equal parts by challenge and opportunity?
For nearly 24 years, Rose Community Foundation’s efforts have been guided by the focus areas set forth by our founding trustees, who in 1995 had the exciting and daunting task of establishing a brand-new foundation to serve Greater Denver, funded by the assets from the sale of Rose Medical Center. Their vision was that Rose Community Foundation would fund in the Jewish and broader communities, across a range of areas in pursuit of a strong, vibrant and better metropolitan area for all people, and that we would continue to ground our efforts in the Jewish values that guided the hospital’s work: a tradition of philanthropy, justice, and nondiscrimination, and a commitment to caring for the entire community in all of its diversity. Over time the Foundation developed its philanthropic services work: stewarding donors’ philanthropic assets and supporting their grantmaking, while helping nonprofits sustain their missions through the creation and growth of endowments.
The Foundation’s staff, board, committee members, and donors have worked tirelessly in pursuit of that vision, focusing our grantmaking work primarily on aging, child and family development, education, health and Jewish life – with a more recent additional focus on organizations working with immigrants, refugees and communities vulnerable to discrimination and hate crimes. We have partnered with grantees, local and national funders, and across sectors, deploying grant dollars in support of our community’s nonprofit sector and convening collaborators to work together to change practice, and sometimes policy, in our region. The Foundation has contributed to, funded and led important work over the past two-plus decades.
And yet, the world turns. The years since Rose Community Foundation was created have brought dramatic change to our region’s growth, demographics, needs, and funding landscape. As stewards of both the Foundation’s legacy and its financial resources, we owe it to the community we serve to ensure that we are addressing the community needs of both today and tomorrow – and operating in ways that best support that goal. To these ends, our Board of Trustees charged us to spend 2019 asking and answering questions about our vision for the future, how we will serve our region, and the roles we will play in our next chapter.
We embark on this work sensitive to the impact it will have not only on our organization but also on our grantees, our funding partners, and the communities we serve broadly. We will bring this awareness into all of our exploration, conversation and decision-making. Based on what we hear and what we learn, our strategies, approaches and focus areas may change. What will not change is our commitment to strengthening the Greater Denver community, our commitment to our donors and to serving as a steward of charitable assets, and our specific commitment, carried forward from the legacy of Rose Medical Center, to supporting the Jewish communities of Greater Denver through grantmaking.
In 2018, we laid the groundwork for this strategic planning process, looking first within, at strengthening our organizational culture and examining the impact – from both measurable and anecdotal perspectives – of our grantmaking work. We also looked beyond our own walls, observing and learning from the approaches nonprofits and other foundations have taken in their own recent strategy work, here and in other communities. A number of questions emerged that will drive our strategic planning this year:
- How will our region’s growth, needs, evolving demographics and funding landscape shape our grantmaking going forward? And how might our approach to funding more closely align with and respond to the interconnected nature of the challenges and opportunities facing our community?
- How can we most effectively empower and partner with our grantees to support them in pursuing their missions?
- How can we bring our two core functions – program work and grantmaking plus donor support and stewardship – more closely together to create synergies and magnify impact for all those we work with?
- How will equity inform the work we do to help people and communities throughout Greater Denver, many of whom historically and currently face discrimination and structural barriers, to succeed and thrive?
- How will we understand and learn from the impact of our work, and support our grantees in doing the same, to advance our understanding of what actually makes a difference and to bring us all closer to achieving the results we seek?
- How can our investment and philanthropic models align with our values and advance our mission? And how can we intentionally leverage all of our assets – including staff, relationships, networks and financial assets – in coordinated pursuit of social change?
These questions are not new to our sector, nor are they entirely new to us as an organization. In fact, some elements of these ideas have been part of our practice for years. However, in a moment when our city, region, country and world face evolving and even unprecedented challenges, we feel a new sense of urgency to wrestle with these questions as we determine how we build on our past to support our community today and into the future.
In December, we selected TCC Group, a mission-driven strategic consulting firm serving organizations in pursuit of social impact, to partner with us in our strategic planning work over the next 11 months. Their knowledge not only of the philanthropic and nonprofit fields broadly speaking, but also of community foundations, health conversion foundations, and Jewish foundations and nonprofits, make them a natural partner and resource in this work. They bring a perspective that includes a deeply collaborative approach to creating strategy, expertise in engaging racially, culturally and socio-economically diverse groups of stakeholders, and strong data analysis practices.
We look forward to engaging a wide range of voices to inform this work and we will be blogging about the journey along the way.