The Rise of Economic Development Philanthropy

The rise of economic development philanthropy is one of the more exciting and promising trends in community development today.  More regions around the US are tapping into local foundation dollars to help finance critical economic development activities and projects.  Community foundations have been around for a long time, but, until quite recently, they weren’t investing much in economic development.  They were investing in good causes, such as local scholarships, but they weren’t seeking to make catalytic investments to help transform local economies. They’re now moving in this direction, and not a moment too soon as other sources of public financing are drying up.  My colleagues as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship and the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group have been working this issue for many years, and you can find useful resources via both groups.  They have recently collaborated on an excellent article in the latest issue of The Foundation Review.   The entire issue, focused on the future of community, is worth a read, but I’ll especially recommend “A New Domain for Place-Rooted Foundations:  Economic Development Philanthropy.”  In addition to offering an introduction to the field, it offers loads of real-life examples of economic development philanthropy in practice from across the US.

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