Case Study

Delaware Community Foundation

The Delaware Community Foundation’s mission is to build opportunity and advance equity in Delaware

Foundation Background and Mission

The Delaware Community Foundation’s mission is to build opportunity and advance equity in Delaware in three ways:

  • Helping donors: The foundation partners with generous people to help them achieve their charitable goals and maximize the impact of their giving, by managing charitable funds and administering grants.
  • Making Grants: Through their direct grant programs, the foundation identifies and invests in nonprofits’ most powerful work to serve the people of Delaware. 
  • Providing Leadership: The foundation inspires, convenes and facilitates conversations about important community issues, shining a light on opportunities to make a difference.

The Approach

The Delaware Community Foundation’s work in voter engagement started as a result of their Building Opportunity in Delaware initiative which brings a prominent national speaker to the state each fall to share “big ideas, sparks community conversations, and inspires civic action.” As part of this program, the foundation helps run book circles throughout the state in the summer in the lead up to the fall event. In 2022, Building Opportunity in Delaware featured Monica Guzman, author of I Never Thought of it That Way, an expert on confronting polarization and bridging divides. This speaker series sparked an interest in doing deeper work to address tribalism, how people within the local community were disengaging from one another, and how that impacted the community’s ability to effectively work together. A first step to address this opportunity was to make a partnership grant to the Mikva Challenge through the discretionary fund managed by the foundation president to provide civic engagement programming to middle and high school students. The partnership led to a Project Soapbox competition featuring six middle schools presenting their ideas on local issues. 

The foundation has also made a commitment to journalism as key to voter and civic engagement. In 2020, the foundation carved out $25,000 with a goal to support local news. The funding led to an internship program that placed aspiring journalists all representing historically underserved communities, at different news organizations around the state for them to specifically cover the impact of the pandemic, on communities of color. This initial investment led to the creation of the Local Journalism Initiative, a new project fiscally sponsored by the Delaware Community Foundation with a mission to strengthen democracy and the local community by “strengthening local journalism in Delaware.” In addition to providing fiscal sponsorship, the foundation is providing a three-year grant and technical assistance for the new initiative. One of the key programs of the collaborative will be producing a local voter guide that leans on journalism to inform voters as they head to the polls. The collaborative is also considering creative and nontraditional ways to reach readers through social media, social messaging apps, and cross-distribute through other local and community newspapers.

Community foundations as fiscal sponsors 
Know a great project advancing voter engagement? Community foundations can support democracy by serving as a fiscal sponsor for new initiatives, reducing the barriers and burdens that new projects face getting off the ground. In addition, serving as a fiscal sponsor allows foundations to lend their brand to new projects which can be helpful to new projects as they establish themselves within the community and among other funders. 
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