A New START for Philanthropic Engagement

In the policy world, the New START campaign symbolized a return to responsible arms control, led by an engaged and committed American president. In addition to celebrating that policy moment, for us here at Ploughshares Fund, the extraordinary success of the New START campaign got us thinking about effective philanthropic models. How could we replicate the moment that just happened? And how could we keep pushing the envelope on what we do?

Inspired by our victory and by Hal Harvey and Paul Brest’s seminal work, Money Well Spent, our executive director, Naila Bolus, pondered what had worked in the New START campaign. What she came up with was a new model of philanthropy that Ploughshares Fund hopes to carry forward into all of our work. She calls it impact philanthropy, and it’s a model that any foundation can copy.

  • Develop a strategy with clear goals.
  • Reach out to nonprofits that can accomplish those goals -- and knit them together into a collaborative network.
  • Commit the foundation's assets to provide leadership and amplify grantees' work. 

Or, put more simply: strategy, network and leadership. 

This kind of coordinated investment and involved foundation leadership is incredibly risky and often rare. But as our experience with the New START campaign shows, it’s the type of risk that pays off. 

In The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Naila tells the story of the campaign and lays out a compelling case for impact philanthropy’s increased investment in advocacy and more involved philanthropy. 

In today's bitter and polarized political environment, many nonprofits and grant makers may conclude that it is impossible to get things done -- and not worth investing in advocacy.

But a major bipartisan victory our foundation and grantees achieved in the Senate is perhaps illustrative of what it takes to succeed, and how grant makers need to think differently about their approach, no matter how daunting the economic downturn or political obstacles make bold action.

As philanthropists, we’re deeply committed to the pursuit of positive social change. As the recipients of individual donations, we also strive to invest the funds donors have entrusted us with as wisely and effectively as possible. As Naila describes in her article, with the New START campaign and our new model of impact philanthropy, we believe that we’ve found a way to be more effective with both of these goals.

US Government photo