I’m still trying to catch my breath a bit after last weeks conference in Glasgow. A relative new bee to the whole community foundation (CF) world it was my first international encounter with CF’s from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. Since fundraising is my main focus for our Amsterdam community foundation I hoped to learn loads about what strategies work best for other CF’s, innovative ways to engage your sponsors and types of donors. But since our CF is still so young I soon realised that there was so much more to gain from the UKCF conference.
I joined the workshop about the Circle of Change and was highly inspired by the ways they found in Northern Ireland to combine true community building with local fundraising. I was moved to tears twice, the first time from laughter during the Positive Psychology talk by Alice Beveridge and the second time because of the moving story of one of the mums who, because of the great work of The Yard Scotland, was now able to spend time with other parents who’s kids where suffering from disabilities and have her son playing in a safe environment. I was reminded of the many forms of privilege, disadvantage and unconscious bias that can enter your community foundation in so many forms, even when you have the best intentions, because of the great presentation by Fozia Irfan and Fahmida Rahman.
But maybe the most powerful conclusion for me, whilst I was always looking up so much to our ‘big brothers’ in the world of CF’s from the UK and other countries, was that a lot of these big brothers have as much to learn from us as we had to learn from them. I heard stories about endowment funds with numbers we can only dream about, but I also heard a lot of these colleagues talk about their struggles to engage the actual communities and to break out of the top-down approach that evolved in their grantmaking over many years. And though in Amsterdam we are miles away from financial security, the fact that we have only started recently allowed us to really engage the communities and get people with a lot of different backgrounds, social stratifications, genders etc. involved. In fact, these Amsterdam citizens form the boards of our six funds that are connected to their different Amsterdam neighbourhoods.
So let me conclude with an invitation. Please feel free to come over and meet me and my colleagues in Amsterdam. Ask us anything about the ways we have structured our foundation in order to engage our fellow citizens, about the urgency of a Community Foundation in Amsterdam and about the great projects we fund. And maybe when you’re there you can teach us about governance, funding and professionalising our foundation?
I can wholeheartedly repeat Jan Despiegelaere’s one-liner: the Eurostar goes both ways. Let’s make good use of it!
Eva Nieuwenhuis, Mensen Maken Amsterdam