Philanthropy is at its core, a match making exercise; finding an alignment of purpose that allows a contribution to fuel work that is important to both those who give and those who receive. It is not a transaction – simply writing a check for a good cause – but a recognition of a shared vision of what can be done to help our community thrive. It is relational: How will it touch our neighbors and friends? The art – and heart – is all about alignment.
There is also a practical side to giving. When you see philanthropy as an investment, not a gift, you begin to assess whether a given investment has the potential to generate a return – generally a mission return. For a foundation like the Hendricks Family Foundation, where we strive to cultivate potential and to offer a hand up instead of a hand out, this is especially important. What will be different in our community as a result of the work that will be done? Ideally measured in outcomes, what will we achieve? What will be the long-term effect? How do we know if our resources will make a difference?
The foundation board has learned over the years – sometimes the hard way – while giving is easy, giving well can be much more difficult. Well intentioned people with great ideas are sometimes unable to build or sustain the organizations necessary to execute those ideas. Poorly defined problems can lead to the wrong solutions. Help can sometimes offer a band aid that fails to create impact beyond the immediate moment.
Creating real change is hard and the foundation has become much more intentional over the years in looking beyond ideas to also assess the strength of the organizations seeking support. Do they have a strong, committed, mission-aligned leader, systems for tracking data, basic policies and procedures? Do they have a qualified board, a budget, a business plan? While these things do not guarantee success, they can certainly enhance the potential.
The foundation has also become much more proactive in the approach to our work in recent years, helping to create solutions instead of just waiting for ideas to come to us:
- We saw a need to increase access to homeownership and to increase rates of ownership in our central city neighborhoods so we recruited ACTS Housing out of Milwaukee to consider Beloit as their first replication site. We leveraged our investment to help shape a strong public-private partnership to launch a 5-year pilot project. Midway through 2023, almost 70 families have been helped to buy a home in the city and a total of more than $7.4 million has been invested through purchase, rehab and down payment assistance.
- We identified a mismatch between the training opportunities available to our young people and the growing workforce needs in our community. So, we conceptualized a career-center for middle and high school youth, ultimately engaging the Stateline Boys and Girls Club to collaborate with us in starting Hendricks CareerTek. In 2023, we expect CTek to work with more than 1,250 local youth offering experiential, hands on career exploration opportunities in demand occupations. Perhaps even more important, we are helping to reshape the career narratives we tell our young people about the opportunities that are available to help ensure they can build a strong future.
- We, along with many others have grown increasingly concerned about educational outcomes in our city and worked with community-members from all corners of Beloit to build The Lincoln Academy public charter school. We leveraged time, talent and resources, including making a significant financial commitment to closing the per pupil funding gap that creates an ongoing challenge for independent charter schools. After only two-years of operation, the TLA team is already proving what is possible for our children.
These efforts are not our only investments – we will likely support the work of close to two dozen organizations in 2023 – but they are important illustrations of what we are striving for when we raise the bar on our own work and set about achieving our goal of giving well.
For a complete list of funded programs, visit the Grant Recipient Archive page.