If you want to change public policy in the United States, you’ll eventually find your way to the influential world of Washington think tanks. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), one of the most aggressive foundations seeking to move big ideas, has been investing in Beltway policy shops for a while now. Earliest this year, in its biggest such give yet, the foundation made an $8.4 million grant to the Urban Institute to help develop its Pay for Success work. Now Arnold is taking things a step further: It’s setting up its own wonk operation in the nation’s capital.
We’ve been following Citi’s Pathways to Progress efforts for about a year, and now the grant-making to nonprofits in this arena is really taking off. This work is amping up employment opportunities for low-income youth, and it’s a great way to build a more inclusive economy.
Three big multi-year grants went out from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation starting in 2014 to investigate and support “Social Innovation Financing.” And this is just part of the picture of what the Arnolds are doing to fund Pay for Success (PFS) initiatives. What is going on with this new trend?
One employer making a mark in the area of philanthropy for veterans is First Data Corporation. This global leader in payments technology recently announced a $7 million dollar seven-year commitment to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University.
This initiative touches on the company’s commitment to veterans in two ways: both as an employer of veterans, and as a provider of services to veteran-owned businesses. With a particular focus on veterans transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life, this grant will go toward education, research, training and job opportunities for veterans and their spouses pursuing business careers.
It’s a win-win. Retail suppliers like Sam’s Club that invest in small business development are not only helping the economy, they are creating more customers for themselves. With $700,000 in gift cards and training, Sam’s Club is working this double win by sponsoring a contest for a second year to build and mentor small businesses.
Sam’s Club recently announced 102 winners of the American Small Business Championship. With two winners in every state and the District of Columbia, these businesses will receive a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expenses-paid trip to a training event, SCORE mentoring for one year, and promotion throughout the year to showcase each Champion’s story.
Memo to development officers: It’s always good to have a U.S. Senator in your corner. Case in point: $200,000 in funding for two nonprofits in Rhode Island doing workforce development.
Through the Blackstone Foundation’s Innovation Grants Initiative, the Founders League and the Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) were selected to receive funding to support startups located in Rhode Island. Blackstone gave out $3 million in gifts this year to organizations around the country doing work to improve local economies and support business activity. Now in its third year, the Blackstone Innovation Grants program is a big piece of the foundation’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in the U.S. and abroad.
What does it take to create a vibrant city with lots of opportunity? Well, in an earlier times, people might have cited a big anchor business or port facility or prime tourist attraction. But after years of thinking and research about urban renewal, the answers have gotten more nuanced and complex.
A city has got to attract talented people—like those creatives we always hear about—but not in a way that pushes out the working class that actually makes things go. Developing a cutting edge industry can be a boon, but cities also need to nurture ladders of opportunity that lead upward from low-wage service jobs. You want engaged citizens, yes, but too much NIMBYism can make it hard to undertake big projects.
It’s not easy distilling the secret sauce of urban vitality, but the Knight Foundation is making an effort with its Knight Cities Challenge, which just announced 32 winners to divvy up $5 million in funding from the foundation.