Sharing Power With Community Members: Perspectives from Rochester-Area Funders, Nonprofits, and Parents

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Engaging people with lived experiences can strengthen nonprofits’ and foundations’ work and build community power, but it also can cause harm and deepen mistrust if not done well. As foundations and nonprofits strive to center community members and look to them as experts, many struggle to engage with them in meaningful ways.

In Rochester, New York, there is a growing movement to center parents’ knowledge and perspective in programs and services that support the health and well-being of children. For more than two decades, the National Parent Leadership Institute (NPLI) has worked with parents across the country to help them build skills and knowledge to advocate for their children and families and have a voice at decision-making tables.

When the Greater Rochester Health Foundation wanted to engage parents in updating its Healthy Futures grantmaking strategy, the foundation partnered with NPLI to bring parents into the work. At the same time, the foundation worked with NPLI to help a small group of nonprofit grantees learn how they could center parent voice in their organizations. Since those initial steps, the foundation has worked to center community voice in all areas of its work, and supported a growing number of grantees in doing the same.

The following videos share the perspectives of staff members of Greater Rochester Health Foundation, NPLI, and University of Rochester Medical Center (a grantee) as well as Rochester-area parents who have received training from NPLI and work in partnership with the foundation and University of Rochester. In these clips you will hear why sharing power with community matters, the difference it makes to programs and strategies, and advice for funders, nonprofit leaders, and community members.

What Does Parent Leadership Look Like in Action?

Carolyn Lee-Davis of NPLI and parent leader facilitators Toyin Anderson and Maria Dalmau describe NPLI’s approach and how it contributes to stronger organizations, stronger communities, and better solutions.

What is NPLI and a parent leader facilitator?

Why is empowering parents important?

What should organizations who want to engage parents consider?

What steps can parents take to become advocates for their children and communities?

How Can Nonprofits Authentically Partner with Parents? What Difference Does It Make?

Linda Alpert-Gillis, ph.D., of University of Rochester Medical Center and parents Toyin Anderson, Maria Dalmau, and Jason McDonald discuss how they have worked together to help the Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness department better meet the needs of patients and their families.

Why is it important for organizations to engage parents?

What qualities are important to be a parent advocate?

What are the barriers to authentic engagement?

How does authentic engagement impact nonprofit leaders and organizations?

How does authentic engagement impact parents and families?

How Can Funders Authentically Partner with Parents? What Difference Does It Make?

Parent leader Toyin Anderson and Greater Rochester Health Foundation staff Danette Campbell-Bell, Anita Black, and Matthew Kuhlenbeck reflect on lessons they’ve learned through partnering together and advice they’d offer funders interested in engaging community in similar ways.

What have you learned through the experience of creating a closer partnership between parents and the foundation?

How did you rethink processes and roles?

What impact have you seen result from authentically engaging parents?

What advice would you offer funders looking to engage community more authentically?

Conversations with the Arizona Community Foundation

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The Arizona Community Foundation has been on a journey to redefine how they measured impact and respond amid the pandemic. In this series of one-minute videos, you can hear some quick takes from Steve Seleznow (President and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation) on community foundations’ value proposition, impact measurement, their role during times of crisis, and equitable grantmaking amid COVID-19. Watch the videos here and below, and read a more in-depth Q&A with Steve on these topics here.

How might community foundations think about their value proposition?

“[Donors] choose to work with us because they want that relationship and they believe there’s value in the relationship we have and there’s value in our ability to share our community knowledge to help them achieve what they want in the community.”

How might community foundations think about measuring impact?

“There are certain things I think I can measure from our grantmaking, … and there are many things that I know to my heart are really great work and are having some level of impact that I don’t think I can measure.”

What role should community foundations play during times of crisis?

“At the heart of a community foundation is the middle name: community. So when our community is in distress, as one of our core values requires us to do, we have to be nimble. We have to respond to what the community tells us.”

How can COVID-19 rapid response funds lead to more equitable grantmaking?

“Through this process, many new nonprofits that typically weren’t on our radar and probably never got a grant from us in the past now got on our radar.”


Read the full conversation here.