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Community-Led Change: A Capacity-Building Case Study

To make community change that sticks, the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation turns to those who know best what a neighborhood needs: community members themselves.

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“This is an excerpt of one case study in a suite of five focused on building grantee capacity. You can read the full case study on the GrantCraft website, and you can read an analysis and find links to all five case studies in our blog post “Five Elements for Success in Capacity Building.”

To make community change that sticks, the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation turns to those who know best what a neighborhood needs: community members themselves.

For more than 20 years, the foundation has invested in improving the quality of life for children and families living in low-income communities in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The foundation works toward this goal by giving multiyear grants and capacity-building support to nonprofits that plan and implement neighborhood revitalization initiatives.

The foundation takes a robust approach to grantmaking that is long-term, resident-driven, and data-driven, integrating capacity-building support throughout partnerships with grantees that often last over a decade. This approach has resulted in significant development including new homes, strengthened commercial corridors, renovated community centers, safer parks, and more. The foundation has facilitated these outcomes by building the capacity of nonprofits and residents alike to continue to plan for and make lasting change in their communities even after the initiatives are complete.

Investing for the Long Haul

Long-term investing is in the foundation’s DNA. When two legacy banks—CoreStates Bank and First Union—merged in 1998, the endowed foundation was created to ensure that local communities didn’t lose the generous and focused support provided by CoreStates, which was known for its commitment to philanthropy and community development.

The merged entity was eventually acquired by Wells Fargo, which currently employs all five of the foundation’s staff members and carries on CoreStates’ legacy of community support.

WFRF initially experimented with different types of community development grants. The foundation knew that communities in their geographic footprint faced deeply rooted challenges like poverty.

“We knew that we were addressing a long-term problem, so we needed a long-term solution,” said Lois Greco, senior vice president and evaluation officer at the foundation. “You wouldn’t buy a house with a one-year loan. So why would you make a one-year grant to fund a 20-year solution?”

Head over to GrantCraft to continue reading.

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