Top-performing nonprofit programs rarely spread widely from their originating sites to other communities that need them. To address this problem, the Growth Philanthropy Network (GPN) is creating a national capital marketplace that provides funding and management assistance to help exceptional nonprofit organizations and programs expand regionally and nationally.
An impressive group of people founded, fund and run this. Social change did not make the list of areas of supported. But the approach taken here, that of creating a "network" or "marketplace" of funders, advisors, and nonprofits could be adopted by any "field" or "domain" or ecosystem of giving. In some ways, the approach taken by GPN is similar to that of the Tipping Point Network, that of creating a rallying point around specific issues, and then attracting key players into a network, movement, learning community, clearinghouse, or marketplace.
GPN seems to be formed with best practices of nonprofits in mind, the best programs, and getting them replicated or scaled. In looking out over the field, another potential focus is the donor and her passionate commitment to a cause, and how to build around her passion a network or marketplace or collaboration or movement so that her efforts are not symbolic or in vain. Likewise, one could focus on the advisor community or firms, building advisor awareness and skills. More and more clearly, though, whatever your silo or focus, the approach taken by GPN or Tipping Point Network seems the right one. Rather than thinking of a gift as a two term relationship (donor/nonprofit), see the gift as one piece of a complex and living system. Think of the health of that ecosystem (of donors, advisors, nonprofits around a cause or community) before focusing too much on this or that gift. Once the ecosystem is mapped and understood, then plugging the players into the network in a meaningful way becomes easier. For example, a tax, legal or financial advisor who knows little about K-12 education, but whose client is passionate about that area, could plug the client into GPN and have done a good deed without having to become an expert himself. When we have a range of such communities or networks, and can link them into a network of networks, we will essentially have a "referral network," or "friends of friends network," in which high potential people can be personally introduced. This is a different vision than seeing all this as a knowledge issue. The key thing is not just knowing stuff, or compiling best practices, it is getting engaged and working effectively. A network like GPN or Tipping Point, much like a local community foundation, can speed the time it takes for us to find one another, befriend one another, learn from one another, gain critical mass, and collaborate. Within a multi-funder, multi-nonprofit network, oriented to a cause, and learning from one another, we can accomplish much more than we can in isolation.