TFN Learning Network Call | Greenspace Conservation in Metropolitan America

Don't forget to register for this month's TFN Learning Network Call!

Greenspace Conservation in Metropolitan America: Partnerships That Benefit People and Nature

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Register Here!

Across metropolitan America, conservation coalitions are working in urban areas to achieve ecological, social, and economic outcomes. These partnerships navigate both the complex ecosystem challenges, as well as complex organizational environments of metropolitan regions. They work across multiple jurisdictions and issue areas, and use resources from the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors.

In 2009, Houston Wilderness hosted an inaugural meeting of what would become the Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance (MGA). Today MGA is a national network of networks connecting the urban environment to the natural environment for the benefit of the people and nature within urban areas.

Join TFN’s December 13th webinar to learn more about the promise of landscape conservation within metropolitan areas, MGA’s national efforts, and the role of funders in this movement.

MGA coalitions impact many critical issues facing urban areas today:
• Active and healthy living through access to outdoor recreation and nature exploration for both children and adults, especially in under-served communities
• Engagement of diverse communities in outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship
• Clean air and protection of water supplies
• Restoration of natural areas and conservation of biodiversity
• Green solutions to our infrastructure challenges
• Mitigation of the effects of climate change
• Greater access to non-motorized, “green” travel options

The conversation will include Deborah January-Bevers, President and CEO of Houston Wilderness, Michael Wetter, Executive Director of Intertwine Alliance, Claire Robinson, Founder and Managing Director of Amigos de los Rios and Peter Pollock, Manager of Western Programs at Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, who will moderate the call.

Please register for this funder-only webinar by Friday, December 8, 2017 to be sure that you receive log-in details.

From our members: Pisces Foundation's David Beckman on tackling water resource challenges

Water affects every aspect of our lives, both as individuals and as communities.

"Despite water’s importance to each and all of us, as a society we have not invested in the solutions that will enable us as a nation to keep up with the challenges water resources face today—population growth, aging infrastructure, loss of natural vegetation, pollution from farm fields and from cities, all made more challenging by climate change," writes David Beckman, president of the Pisces Foundation, a TFN member. "That is why when we started the Pisces Foundation, the question we wrestled with was not whether to make water one of our focus areas. Rather, the question was: given its importance and complexity, how do we best tackle it?"

Beckman explores the answer to this question in a recent Pisces Foundation blog post, Water: A Key to Our Collective Future.

Be sure to read the full post, and feel free to leave your own ideas on tackling the tricky issue of water resource challenges in the comments section below.

Meet our newest Partners for Places grantees!

We're proud to announce the latest recipients of our Partners for Places matching grants!

Eleven cities across the United States will receive nearly a million dollars for sustainability efforts that largely benefit low-income neighborhoods. That means 11 cities, 11 sustainable solutions.

These sustainability efforts will take place in cities both large and small, from a project in Los Angeles that tackles park scarcity in the city’s most densely populated areas to an agricultural program in Cary, N.C., that supports women and minority farmers while giving low-income residents greater access to healthy food.

The funding is through the Partners for Places matching grants program, which pairs city governments with philanthropy to support sustainability projects that promote a healthy environment, a strong economy, and well-being for all residents.

Lancaster, Pa. is one of three Partners for Places cities that will use its grant to create a climate action plan. Watch their video about this important effort.

Three of the grantees — Bend, Ore., Lancaster, Pa., and New Orleans — will use the Partners for Places matching grants to help craft a climate action plan, a blueprint that describes the policies and measures that cities will enact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase their community's resilience to climate change.

“I think we have a commitment to future generations to take steps to make sure at a minimum we leave this planet in the same shape we found it,” said Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray in a video explaining the city’s efforts to address climate issues — and plan for its future. “There’s no better place to start this type of thing than at the local level.”

Partners for Places, led by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, will provide $484,000 in funding to 11 cities through its general grant program, which will be matched by local funders. That means a total of $968,000 will be leveraged to fund sustainability projects in these selected cities.

“These projects are about fighting the next climate-related disaster," said Darryl Young, director of Sustainable Cities at The Summit Foundation.  "Flood, fire, devastation. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but it’s important — especially at the city level — to think proactively, to learn how to adapt, to prevent and respond in order to avoid becoming a cautionary tale.”

The program is supported by five investor foundations: The JPB Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The New York Community Trust, The Summit Foundation, and Surdna Foundation. This grant cycle also includes $127,500 awarded to three green stormwater infrastructure projects, designed to advance water-related sustainability goals, made possible by the support of the Pisces Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, and the Turner Foundation.

“These types of projects can help cities accomplish so much,” said Nancy Stoner, Water Program director and a senior fellow at the Pisces Foundation. “They not only improve water quality and water supply, but also beautify neighborhoods, create jobs, and help communities become healthier and more climate resilient.”

To date, Partners for Places has awarded $5.4 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to nearly $11 million in philanthropic investments. Partners for Places will open a new round of funding for the general grant program in December.

The latest Partners for Places grant recipients and their matching funders are:

Los Angeles' Community School Parks program.creates access to safe and vibrant play spaces in underserved neighborhoods. Photo Credit: People for Parks L.A.
  • Bend, Ore($50,000): To engage diverse voices to create a community climate action plan with innovative strategies that balance equity, efficiency and meaningful climate benefits. (Matching funder: Oregon Community Foundation Advised Funds)
  • Cary, N.C.($25,000): To support equitable access to farmland for minority and women farmers and access to food for low-income residents through SNAP EBT, and a double bucks program. (Matching funder: Triangle Community Foundation)
  • Cincinnati, Ohio($115,000): To enhance sustainability of Cincinnati’s regional food system through strategic, collaborative activities to prevent, recover, and recycle food waste and educate the public on the issue. (Matching funders: The Greater Cincinnati FoundationCarol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank FoundationInteract for Health)
  • Lancaster, Pa.($30,000): To support an equity-focused, community-wide planning effort resulting in a comprehensive climate action and resilience plan for the City of Lancaster and an initial implementation project. (Matching funders: Lancaster County Community FoundationThe Steinman Foundation)
  • Los Angeles, Calif.($35,000): To tackle park-scarcity in LA’s densest and lowest-income regions by opening vibrant school playgrounds to the public through its Community School Parks program and empowering low-income residents through enhanced community engagement. (Matching funder: First 5 LA and The Goldhirsh Foundation)
  • New Orleans, La.($45,000): To engage the community in making equity a priority in implementation of the City of New Orleans’ Climate Action Strategy and to help the city meet the strategy’s climate mitigation goals equitably. (Matching funder: Greater New Orleans Foundation)
  • Philadelphia, Pa.($25,000): A data-driven approach to identify Philadelphia populations disproportionately exposed to environmental stressors, and reduce disparities through community-centered decision-making. (Matching funder: Knight Foundation)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah($31,500): To empower Salt Lake City’s low-income and communities of color to engage in efforts to mitigate climate change impacts, improve community resiliency, and ensure social equity. This will be achieved through engagement in the Utah Climate Action Network, coupled with a community-driven energy efficiency campaign. (Matching funders: The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles FoundationThe Community Foundation of UtahRichard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway FoundationTelemachus Foundation)

This round of Partners for Places matching grants also recognizes three green stormwater infrastructure projects:

Las Cruces. N.M., plans to build a green corridor in an urban area. The "after" image is an artists' rendering depicting what the completed project would look like. Photo Credit: City of Las Cruces
  • Grand Rapids, Mich.($51,250): To prepare and implement a plan to fund and install green infrastructure and water conservation practices in low income-neighborhoods. (Matching funder: Wege Foundation)
  • Las Cruces, N.M.($25,000): To build community resilience and cohesion in a low- to moderate income urban neighborhood as part of a project to design and construct a green infrastructure corridor and engage in community-building activities, combating extreme heat and drought. (Matching funder: Santa Fe Community Foundation)
  • St. Louis, Mo.($51,250): Will plant trees to manage stormwater, enhance tree canopy, reduce heat island impact, and strengthen community relations by holding community tree-planting events with off-duty police officers and providing summer youth jobs for tree stewardship. (Matching funders: St. Louis Community FoundationW.A. Kerr Foundation, Commerce Bancshares Foundation)

About Partners for Places Partners for Places

A joint project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Partners for Places is a successful matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability leaders and place-based foundations. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to promote a healthy environment, a strong economy and well-being for all residents. Through these investments, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make our communities more prosperous, livable and vibrant.

For additional information and media inquiries, contact: Tere Figueras Negrete, Communications Director at the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities,

Funders interested in becoming a part of Partners for Places should contact Director of Programs Ann Wallace.


Interested in Green Infrastructure? Join our Stormwater Funders' webinars!

Over the last several months, members of the Stormwater Funders’ Group have had a series of conversations about the multiple benefits of green infrastructure, such as public health and community investment, in addition to their largely known water quality benefits.

In recent months, funders have expressed interest in better studies to quantify multiple benefits, communicating the benefits more clearly for skeptics and decision makers, particularly local governments and smaller utilities, and integrating multiple benefits outcomes into green infrastructure projects.

And we are listening!

During this webinar, we hope funders will learn about how green infrastructure practitioners are thinking about multiple benefits, how various multiple benefit valuation tools and about the latest research on multiple benefits by the universities participating in the Urban Water Innovation Network. There will also be time for funder-only discussion following the presentations to explore funder interests and opportunities to work together.

Our speakers include Paula Conolly of Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, Heather Cooley of Pacific Institute, Neil Grigg, Ph.D of Colorado State University and the Urban Water Innovation Network and Nancy Stoner of Pisces Foundation as our moderator.

This funder-only webinar will be on Tuesday, November 7 at 1:00 p.m. ET/ 10:00 a.m. PT. Registration for this event ends on Friday, November 3.

To register, click here.

Wait! Want more Stormwater Funders’ Group learning opportunities?

Stormwater Funders’ Group is also organizing this month’s TFN Learning Network Call! This month’s call, Green Streets: Re-envisioning Water and Transportation Infrastructure, which will focus on the benefits of integrating water and transportation infrastructure.

This funder-only webinar will be on Wednesday, November 8t at 2:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET/ 11:00 a.m. PT. Registration for this even will end on Friday, November 3.

To register, click here.

Additional resources:

  • ICYMI: In a recent editorial for the Detroit Free Press, John M. Erb, president and chairman of the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, shares the many benefits of green stormwater infrastructure, noting that Detroit is well situated to take the lead on implementing sustainable innovation: "With land abutting our lakes and rivers and more than 600,000 creative and resilient residents, Detroit has an unprecedented opportunity to become a leader in demonstrating the role green stormwater infrastructure can play in creating a healthier more prosperous city." Read the full piece here.
  • Check out this video from Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN), a consortium of academic institutions and key partners across the U.S.


TFN Launches CEO Candidate Search

For nearly two decades, the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (TFN) has worked to inspire, strengthen and expand funding and philanthropic leadership in order to help create environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous regions and communities.

Now, as TFN heads toward our 20th anniversary in 2019, we are excited to open recruitment for a dynamic leader to guide the network into the future. We have retained national executive search firm Diversified Search to actively work to identify potential candidates for the very important position of Chief Executive Officer of TFN. Today, I’m excited to share the public announcement of the position, desired qualities and characteristics and contact information.

TFN is seeking an inspirational leader to be the face and voice of the network, which includes more than 170 member organizations, eight working groups, the Partners for Places grant program, and our PLACES Fellowship. The CEO will provide strategic and managerial leadership of TFN and ensure that the organization’s strategic direction is consistent with our mission, values and priorities.

The ideal candidate is one who has a proven track record of attracting, motivating, developing and retaining an excellent staff. She or he will drive organizational and operational initiatives and systems, identify needs and opportunities and develop programs, and provide oversight and direction of TFN’s funder working groups and grant and fellowship programs. The successful candidate will ensure that TFN’s financial resources are deployed prudently and with maximum positive impact.

This position reports to TFN’s Board of Directors, and will be responsible for influencing the development of a strategic plan, operating policy, and regularly informing the board of TFN’s activities and opportunities.

Specifically, we seek candidates with the following qualities/characteristics:

Mission-oriented, visionary leader with strong networking abilities who can engage and inspire members and partners.
Great communicator who is outgoing and comfortable with a high-visibility position, and is a team player.
Experience or familiarity in working with boards.
Demonstrated fiscal responsibility and budgetary oversight.
Fundraising experience (minimum of $5 million raised).


Do you or someone you know embody these qualities and characteristics? Please contact the Diversified Search team, which consists of Marjorie Kean ( and Joyce Ort ( to share your recommendations and/or request the job description. We also encourage you to share this information with your professional networks.

In speaking out against federal cuts, Legacy Foundation provides a sample guide for advocacy action

Carolyn Saxton, Legacy Foundation President

This summer, we featured a Fair Share blog post highlighting how the Legacy Foundation is leaning into advocacy — and how the foundation’s leadership helped organize stakeholders in the greater Northwest Indiana region to speak out against proposed federal budget cuts at HUD and EPA that would have severe negative impacts on the region’s low- and moderate-income population and environmental protections.

Legacy Foundation President Carolyn Saxton shared this update on the process with TFN:

“We finally got our meeting with the Congressional leaders together last Friday…not an easy process and we were not able to secure participation by Sen. Young. But we had Rep. Visclosky and Sen. Donnelly in attendance.

I am attaching some of the items from that meeting, including the agenda.  Ahead of the meeting we provided our Congressmen with the participants who are signatories on the impact statement. The impact statement is attached. At the meeting we distributed the materials that informed our impact statement; those are also attached. We discussed next steps and at this point the newspapers are holding off on any coverage about these budget concerns primarily because they believe they will be dead in the water when they arrive from the President.  I am not so sure but we are ready if that is not the case.  Our Congressmen in attendance voiced their support for continued funding and commented that these meetings and personal correspondence are very important."

Carolyn also shared examples of an impact statement and other documents Legacy compiled to share with elected officials, which may be of interest to other funders considering similar approaches:

Policy Action Summary

Convening Agenda

Impact Statement and Support Documents

Letter Opposing Changes to the Johnson Amendment

Carolyn writes:

“Taken together, the documents mentioned above offer a sample guide to advocacy action on any number of policy issues.”

For more information you can contact Carolyn directly at

Fair Share is an occasional column devoted to sharing innovative projects and promising practices from the OIC network. If you have ideas for a topic, or a story to share, contact Alicia at

Alicia Kitsuse
Program Director for Older Industrial Cities, (305) 667-6350

California wildfires: Forgotten victims, environmental hazards, and how funders can help

The deadly wildfires that have engulfed much of northern California, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more, represent the one of the worst firestorms in the history of the state.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our funders, friends and family in California, as well as those impacted by the devastating fires that began earlier this month. (We are happy to report that our TFN team members based in California, including those involved in our Smart Growth California initiative, are all safe.)

Here are a list of resources, stories and other useful information in the wake of the wildfires, which according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), "burned through 8.5 million acres, well above the 6 million acre annual average for the past year."

At least 40 people have died and hundreds of injuries have been reported, and those numbers are expected to rise. Thousands of people are under mandatory evacuation orders. The LA Times shared touching story on the lives lost to the wildfires.

CDP has compiled a growing list of donors, funds and other resources for those looking to participate in relief and recover efforts. (CDP is a partner in TFN's Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership, or PPREP for short.)

 Inside Philanthropy notes that funders are stepping up to address an often overlooked community that has been affected by the wildires: undocumented immigrants.

"A group of local immigrant service advocates launched the UndocuFund for Fire Relief in Sonoma County to provide direct assistance to this particular subset of victims. Direct service support comes in the form of practical things like temporary housing, home repairs, essential household items, rebuilding equipment, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and even necessary education materials. Basic needs, such as rent and groceries, are also provided for undocumented immigrants through this fund. The fund kicked off with a $50,000 challenge grant from the California Wellness Foundation, and 100 percent of the donations go to victim support. The Sebastopol, California-based Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) serves as the fund’s fiscal agent, covering administrative costs with the other partners." Read the full story here.

While the total devastation of the wildfires is still to be determined, environmental advocates and public health experts have already begun to raise concern about the long-term impacts. A story this week from the New York Times details a list of potential dangers: "Treated wood in a house’s frame, for instance, put there to prevent bacteria growth, can contain copper, chromium and arsenic. Consumer electronics contain metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. Older homes might have asbestos shingles. Even galvanized nails are a concern because when they melt they release zinc. All are potentially harmful."

“In modern times this has got be an unprecedented event, and a major hazard for the public and for property owners,” said Dr. Alan Lockwood, a retired neurologist who has written widely about public health, told the Times. He said an apt comparison might be the environmental cleanup after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, as debris and dust swirled through Lower Manhattan.

Is your foundation working to address the needs of those impacted by recent natural disasters? Please send updates or additional information and resources to TFN Communications Director.


Partners for Places: How Toledo developed a sustainability plan with—not for—a historic neighborhood

When the Toledo-Lucas Sustainability Commission wanted to bring its newly adopted “Going Beyond Green” (GBG) sustainability plan to life, the Toledo Community Foundation (TCF) knew just the place for a pilot.

TCF connected the sustainability commission to the Old West End Neighborhood Initiative (OWENI), a group of resident leaders representing the Old West End, a neighborhood once home to the most well-to-do residents of Toledo whose collection of 19th century Victorian and Edwardian homes would eventually earn parts of the area a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. But the construction in the 1960s of an interstate highway, as well as considerable disinvestment and economic hardship, took a steep toll on the working-class and predominantly African American residents of the Old West End.

OWENI’s commitment to revitalizing and improving the quality of life in the neighborhood, efforts that included a house-painting program for senior citizens and those with disabilities, made the Old West End an ideal laboratory for neighborhood-level, resident-led action.

The Going Beyond Green sustainability plan was completed in 2014 at a moment of heightened energy around redevelopment of a former manufacturing site adjacent to the Old West End. OWENI emerged to help bring the neighborhood’s voice to the table and position residents to benefit from the redevelopment as it unfolds. The project was awarded a grant through the Partners for Places matching grant program, a successful matching grant program that creates opportunities for cities and counties in the United States and Canada to improve communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability offices and place-based foundations.

Through these projects, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make urban areas more prosperous, livable, and vibrant. The grant program was launched in 2012 by The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN). Toledo was awarded a $25,000 Partners for Places grant, which was matched by an additional $25,000 from the Toledo Community Foundation for a total of $50,000 that enabled OWENI, in close partnership with the Toledo Arts Commission to engage with the Sustainability Commission and other partners. For example, AmeriCorps provided staffing support.)

IMG 1128

The Arts Commission’s focus on placemaking aligned directly with OWENI’s vision to enhance the “sense of place” in the Old West End neighborhood. Their ability to convene diverse partners wove a sustainability orientation into fields such as community design, landscape architecture, arts and culture, health and wellness, and transportation. They also facilitated exploration, with the community, of approaches to implementing sustainability in the neighborhood.

Christine Billau Dziad, a program officer with the Toledo Community Foundation said that engagement provided key insights.

“This project enabled us to engage residents, rather than just helicopter in with skills and tools,” she said.

These mutually beneficial relationships have led to authentic implementation partnerships, as well as an understanding of how to activate sustainability with partners in other communities, notes Melissa Greene Hopfer of the Toledo-Lucas Sustainability Commission.

“One of the most valuable things we got from this project was the experience of what it means to develop a plan with and not for a neighborhood,” said Greene Hopfer.

Alongside collaborative learning, the project provided a platform for requisite action, which resulted in a range of projects – walkable and bikeable streets, reuse plan charettes, a pollinator plan on a high traffic corner – with complementary placemaking, neighborhood beautification, nature habitat, and employment outcomes. These projects were critical to the success of the project, said Billau Dziad.

“From the residents’ perspective, projects can often feel like all talk and no action,” she said. “The GBG project helped us to have an act.”

About the author: 

Danyelle O’Hara, Consultant for the Funders' Network

Since 1990, Danyelle O’Hara has worked with a range of organizations in the United States and internationally to help build capacity in issues related to community economic development, natural resources management, and community change.  In West and Central Africa, Danyelle worked with Catholic Relief Services and the World Wildlife Fund and in the U.S., she has worked as staff to the Center for Community Self-Help and The Conservation Fund, and with numerous organizations as a consultant. Danyelle has a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a Master’s in international development education, both from Stanford University, and extensive experience in program development and design, program management, and evaluation.




About Partners for Places: 

A collaborative matching grant program, Partners for Places creates opportunities for cities and counties in the United States and Canada to improve communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability offices and place-based foundations. Partners for Places is led by TFN and our partners at the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. National funders invest in local projects to promote a healthy environment, a strong economy, and well-being of all residents. Through these projects, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make our urban areas more prosperous, livable, and vibrant. To date, Partners for Places has awarded more than $5 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to more than $10 million in investments.


Diversity is nature’s greatest strength—it should be ours, too.

“Strength in Diversity,” proclaimed the Bugler, the newsletter I picked up at Olympic National Park in Washington State. I’d taken advantage of the opportunity to explore the Pacific Northwest before our 16 fellows arrived in Seattle and Tacoma for our second PLACES gathering, and it was as if the work had started a week early.

The stunning density of the Hoh Rain Forest revealed its layers to me as yellow-green light shone through the gigantic Sitka spruce trees, Douglas firs, big leaf maples, western hemlock, and ubiquitous mosses and ferns. Tiny saplings, striving toward the light, stretched their roots around recently fallen nurse logs down to the soil for water and stability. All these beings compete fiercely for resources, but also depend on one another to cope with and adapt to changes in the environment. “The park’s variety of life,” cried the Bugler, “provides strength and resilience for the future.”

Sounds familiar?

In Seattle, in Tacoma, and in my home, the Quad Cities, we need to cope with change and adapt for the future. We know that the American cities that are growing and thriving have diversity in common. But diversity without equity and inclusion will serve none of us.

The National Equity Atlas calls our country’s increasingly diverse population “a tremendous asset in the global economy. But rising income inequality and persistent racial gaps in health, wealth, income, employment, education, and opportunity prevent low-income people and people of color from realizing their full economic potential. And as the nation becomes more diverse, the costs of inequity will grow.”

The Quad Cities urban core is actually made of five cities in northwest Illinois and Southeastern Iowa: Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa; Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. With growing diversity and an average  racial income gap of $5 per hour in our metro area, along with disparities in educational levels needed for current and future jobs, the Quad Cities has much to do to realize our regional vision that “residents of all races, ethnicities, ages, political affiliations, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations and viewpoints […] are embraced, have an equal opportunity for success and know that their differences are the foundation for the region’s successes.”

I’m proud that our government, nonprofit, and business leaders have adopted this goal of being a welcoming and inclusive community.

As another small city setting its own image rather than letting itself be defined by others, Tacoma offers relevant lessons for my home. They too are seeing increased diversity without corresponding equity. One cooperative response comes from the Puyallup Watershed Initiative, a mix of community members, nonprofits, governments, and businesses in that watershed to increase community stewardship, strengthen local leadership, increase equity and inclusion—all in the interest of improving water quality for the people who rely on the glacial runoff of that eerie floating mountain visible all along the I-5 corridor: Mount Rainier. Each work group, coalesced around common interests like transportation, food, stormwater, and environmental education, creates a unified 20-year vision as well as shorter-term plans to accomplish goals within that time.

The people of Seattle, too, offer lessons on the power of diverse coalitions. The Chinatown-International District —made up of Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon— remains diverse despite economic pressures because of intensely careful development (and despite the forced removal and confinement of Japanese residents in the 1940s.) Today, many players are working to works to improve the neighborhood while maintaining its historical character, affordability, and diversity. They include two not-for-profit organizations that own many of the local buildings, an elected design review board with unusually strong powers, and community organizers with strong ties to the community—like Sonny Nyugen, who led us on an eye-opening tour of the Chinatown-International District.

Success is not guaranteed. The Center District up the hill on Jackson Street was once a thriving hub of African American homes and businesses, but fell from 80 percent black residents in the 1960s and 1970s to 11 percent today due to market pressures and racially motivated zoning. The Chinatown-International District has managed, if not escaped, gentrification—so far.

In our philanthropic roles, PLACES fellows took to heart this lesson on the strength of diverse allies. Bina Patel, our PLACES coach, says, “This is going to take a huge group of people that are not you. You’ve got to find them.” We each recognize the need to bring in unexpected partners to accomplish our varied goals while increasing equity. When I looked for allies at home, I didn’t initially look to business leaders: It’s not in every city that they come forward to stress the importance of a welcoming and inclusive community, as they have in the Quad Cities. One of our PLACES fellows articulated her realization that in advocating against an expanded border wall, southwestern hunters and environmental activists would have common cause with immigrant rights groups. And another elicited knowing laughter from all of us by encapsulating it with the words of Puff Daddy (Diddy): “Tell your friends to get with my friends, and we can be friends.” We need more friends with the same values, but different ideas.

I know what I said earlier: that there in Olympic National Park, it seemed the work of PLACES started a week early. But truly I know our work—The Work—of striving for racial equity doesn’t begin and doesn’t end. It’s a constant process, walking (or crawling) one step after another towards a world where people’s outcomes are not defined by their race. The lessons gained during my time with our PLACES coach, staff, and fellows teach me to recognize opportunities to learn and ask questions outside of our meetings. When I can spot a lesson on equity even while communing with nature, I know PLACES is equipping me to map those steps, walk those steps, and most importantly, to connect with others who want to walk with me.

Catch up on our last Going PLACES blog here.

About the Author:

Kelly Thompson, Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Initiatives, Community Foundation of the Great River Bend

Kelly earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Iowa and her Bachelors degree in Sociology from Augustana College. She brought to the Community Foundation nine years of experience in social services, including direct service in the areas of child welfare and homelessness; grant writing; and agency administration. As Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Initiatives, Kelly oversees grantmaking, scholarships, and the Community Foundation's collaborations with others on issues that no one organization can address alone. She also manages CFGRB’s youth philanthropy program, Teens for Tomorrow. Kelly lives in Rock Island, enjoys the local live music scene, and is active in community theatre.

Register Now! Uncertain Waters: Disasters and the Needs of Vulnerable Populations

Harvey. Irma. Maria.

As the United States and the Caribbean grapple with one of the most devastating Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent history, the impact of these storms raise important questions about disaster preparation, relief and recovery – especially for vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Do our most vulnerable neighbors – including low-income households, immigrant communities, the elderly and the infirm – have the means to adequately prepare or evacuate in the face of a looming threat? What systems worked, or didn’t work, in times of crisis? And how can philanthropy support long-term recovery that is both effective and equitable?

Join us for a webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 3 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET (2:00 – 3:00 p.m. CT), to hear first-hand accounts from journalists and funders whose communities were impacted by recent storms, as well as to learn how funders are working to help create more sustainable, resilient and equitable communities that can better withstand and recover from natural disasters.

Register here. 


Regine Webster, Vice President, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a partner in the Funders’ Network’s Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency and Emergency Partnership (PPREP)


Elizabeth Love, Senior Program Officer, Houston Endowment

Charisse Grant, Senior Vice President for Programs, The Miami Foundation

Nadege Green, Social Justice Reporter at WLRN Miami, South Florida’s public radio affiliate

Matt Tresaugue, former environmental reporter for the Houston Chronicle and Houston-based Communications Manager for the Environmental Defense Fund

Kelly Thompson, Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Initiatives, Community Foundation of the Great River Bend and a member of TFN’s PPREP cohort.

Long-term recovery from this year’s devastating hurricane season is going to take billions of dollars and strategic cross-sector collaboration between funders, government, nonprofits, and public/private humanitarian actors, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Find additional resources and ways to help here.

At TFN, we are committed to working with our funders to learn, share and explore the strategies and best practices for helping communities prepare and recover from disasters in ways that take into account the needs of those most vulnerable. Stay tuned for additional webinars and other learning opportunities, including our 2018 Annual Conference, which will take place in Houston this March.