As mainstream media continues its fast-paced change, community foundations are adapting aggressively to fill the gap in information needs. Leaders from three community foundations — the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Central Carolina Community Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Foundation — shared a few ways they stepped up to take a bigger role in engaging their citizens in the news and information space.
BUILD CREDIBILITY FIRST
Don’t just announce to a community “We’re here” out of nowhere, said the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s JoAnn Turnquist. Engage with stakeholders, first. To build credibility in its community, the Central Carolina Community Foundation took a personal focus and built that effort into a role in broader civic conversations by starting with a digital literacy project aimed at senior citizens in 11 counties in North Carolina.
Since senior citizens were relying on shrinking print newspapers, the group wasn’t accessing news and information in a key way it was being delivered — online. So the foundation recruited students, trained them on how to work with seniors and tech, and students became digital coaches. The success of the training project was a big boost to the foundation. “It really did propel us into having a seat at the big kids table,” said Turnquist. Now, in areas it cares about — land use or education or others — the foundation has credibility as an organization that can bring people together.
MAKE UP FOR A SMALL STAFF BY LEVERAGING PARTNERSHIPS
Hampered by a small staff? No problem. Turnquist says foundations should leverage relationships with mainstream press, colleges and other civic organizations. “We do have the ability to bring folks together and leverage their strengths,” said Turnquist. In New Orleans, as the Times-Picayune cut its publishing schedule and its staff, the Greater New Orleans Foundation stepped up by partnering with a new investigative non-profit news source, The Lens. “You really have to address that craving hunger for news and information,” said the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Josephine Everly.