It can’t be business as usual in Connecticut

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In its 92 years, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has been a steady resource throughout the Greater Hartford region despite the rise and fall of the economy. We have been through uncertain times before:  the Great Depression… the oil crisis of the 70s and the recession that followed… the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and the 2008 Great Recession.

While this fiscal uncertainty is not new, our response must be.  It cannot be business as usual.  Not for the state of Connecticut, the Greater Hartford Region, nonprofits, nor for the Hartford Foundation.  The long-term and unprecedented nature of today’s state and municipal fiscal challenges require us to be more nimble, flexible, visible and open to thoughtful risk-taking.

We recognize that our communities, and the nonprofits that serve them, are reeling from the fiscal crises.  We hear from grantees who are trying to provide services to those who need it most, and many are simply treading water, trying to make do until some semblance of normalcy returns and a state budget is passed.

We believe that crisis gives us the opportunity to be creative, try something different, to look toward unique collaborations and possibilities that will not only sustain us in this “new normal,” but enable us to thrive.

Here is what the Foundation is doing differently:

  • We recently provided rapid response funding to preserve 600 slots for Hartford’s Summer Youth Employment program and covered the cost of furloughed days at a nonprofit serving adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • We’re adding flexibility to our grants programs that provide financial aid to our grantees to cover funding gaps, responsibly wind down programs and even help transfer essential services from struggling nonprofits to stable ones.
  • Research and evaluation are becoming a greater part of our work, and we are actively using this information to make data-driven decisions about the allocation of limited resources.  We will share what we learn with federal, state and local policy leaders to drive public policy change.
  • We are pursuing collaborations with other funders in the state and across the country to find ways to work together for the greater good of Connecticut.
  • Our Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) is offering new programs to help nonprofits address the “new normal” in strategic and sustainable ways.
  • We will host a series of meetings with residents throughout the region to hear ideas and new ways their resources might be used.
  • We are reaching out to state and national policymakers and business leaders to encourage new partnerships, leverage new dollars and ensure that the Foundation is part of discussions on how best to strengthen our communities.

We cannot do this alone and philanthropy can’t solve the state’s fiscal issues nor replace state or local responsibilities, no matter how big their endowments.  So we must work together.

Our endowment supports the Greater Hartford region with more than 1,100 different funds governed by the intent of our donors and rules of law.  Our donors generously support the Foundation with the understanding that their contributions will serve our community forever; our spending policy and investment strategy work together to provide a predictable stream of funds for annual grantmaking, even during fiscal downturns.  We hear the calls for the Hartford Foundation to put more money into the community, and we are considering how we can invest funds in new ways that directly benefit Greater Hartford.  But that alone is not a sustainable solution.

The Hartford Foundation will catalyze philanthropy and connect people, knowledge and resources to make an impact where it is most needed.  We are, however, greater together.  Together, we can transform crisis into opportunity that fuels lasting and equitable opportunity for all of us.

Jay Williams is president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. 

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