A Gateway to Impact: A Q+A on the Vermont Community Foundation’s Giving Together Program
Image courtesy of the Bennington Museum.
*If you are a current fundholder and have questions about how to participate in a Giving Together grant round, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-388-3355 opt. 5.
A couple of times every year, the Vermont Community Foundation invites fundholders to join in co-funding nonprofits from every corner of the state through its Giving Together program. Typically for grant programs like Spark Connecting Community, the Community Foundation solicits applications, completes initial vetting, then packages the list of projects and programs for fundholders to review and decide if they want to support.
“There is no better way to participate in collective giving,” explains Senior Philanthropic Advisor Martha Trombley Oakes. “For those who participate, it is a unique opportunity to make small, mid-, and large-sized gifts that combine with Community Foundation dollars to fill a gap and create a much greater impact.”
The Giving Together program has boosts grantmaking at the Community Foundation. To learn more about the program and how fundholders can get involved, we asked Martha and Jennifer duToit Barret, Senior Grants Specialist, to sit down and talk about why the Giving Together program is a special opportunity.
So, let’s start with a basic question—what is special about Giving Together?
Giving Together is a differentiator between the Vermont Community Foundation and other institutions that offer donor-advised funds, as well as other community foundations across the country. For our fundholders, it can accomplish several things:
1. Learning about new organizations across the state of Vermont doing great work in your interest areas.
2. Leveraging your dollars through collective giving at modest amounts.
3. Getting to know your grantmaking, which can be a gateway to mission investing or other giving opportunities.
The Giving Together program also extends visibility into nonprofits’ work and mission and builds off the Community Foundation’s capacity to bring more funding to more projects—and in the process help communities thrive. As an example, if the Community Foundation’s own grantmaking can fund 50 percent of applications, the additional funds created through Giving Together means we may be able to fund 75 percent or more of eligible projects.
And Giving Together is a shared opportunity for the foundation and fundholders alike to learn about community needs and nonprofit work so everyone is more connected to the communities where they are doing grantmaking.
That does sound special, so can you give an example of Giving Together in action?
Absolutely! Let’s start with the grantmaking perspective.
As the COVID-19 pandemic further gripped Vermont in the Fall of 2020, the Vermont Community Foundation received nearly 130 applications to its Spark Connecting Community grant program—more than 4x the average—for creative proposals offering inspiring ways to keep communities connected at a difficult time. Through the Community Foundation’s Giving Together program, generous fundholders provided nearly $80,000 to support additional grantmaking, resulting in over 60 projects from across the state receiving funding.
For fundholders, Giving Together is an opportunity to fund organizations they might not have known about—beyond their neighborhood or network—and it’s a way of stretching philanthropic capital. We’ve also seen some fundholders use it as a tool to engage other members of their family, giving everyone a voice in grantmaking. It can be a real hands-on experience.
Does Giving Together help address any challenges associated with collective giving?
In my experience, fundholders and donors often associate collective giving with the need to provide large gifts—think economic development projects or investing in broadband infrastructure for a community. Giving Together creates the opportunity to participate in collective giving at relatively small amounts, creating a lower barrier to entry.