How to Build Better Relationships Between Nonprofits and Philanthropists

Dec 10, 2018 admin

Before last week, I’d never heard of the RISE framework for social change. Rebecca Riccio, Director of the Social Impact Lab at Northeastern University, developed the concept, named as an acronym derived from its four tenets: Relevance, Impact, Sustainability and Excellence. Riccio presented RISE at a recent all-day event at Fenway Park hosted by our client Learning by Giving Foundation, an organization founded by Doris Buffett to inspire and train the next generation of philanthropic leaders, and the Red Sox Foundation.

The RISE concept is meant to prompt the following questions:

  • Relevance: Is the organization meaningfully connected to the people and community it works with and those who have a stake in it?
  • Impact: Is the work making a difference?
  • Sustainability: Is the organization financially healthy and stewarding the resources entrusted to it responsibly?
  • Excellence: Is the organization well run and built to get the job done?

RISE offers a way for nonprofit leaders to assess and build their organizational capacity. It also offers a way to guide donor decision-making to support high-performers. But this wonderfully simple and sophisticated framework could also be applied to the business world to help inform corporate social responsibility programs, including whom to partner with.

Throughout the event, called Philanthropy on the Field, the speakers were passionate, Doris Buffett beamed, and new relationships were formed over lunch. When the program ended, I left considering how the day itself could be evaluated using RISE. This we know:

  • Relevance: Boston is a center for nonprofits, innovation and philanthropy. More than 180 emerging leaders in these fields participated, including U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III; Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy; The BASE founder Robert Lewis Jr.; Juma Crawford, executive director of the Lewis Family Foundation and the Grand Circle Foundation; Colleen Richards Powell, vice president and director of corporate citizenship at MFS Investment Management; Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, co-founder of Neighborhood Villages; and Alex Buffett Rozek, chair of the Learning by Giving board.

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(From left to right: Riccio and Crawford listen to Lewis speak passionately about how philanthropists should consider not just Return on Investment but “Return on Community,” or ROC.)

  • Impact: The day also included a nonprofit showcase emceed by Harold Reynolds, an MLB Network analyst and former baseball star, featuring 21 high-impact, local nonprofits in the areas of youth education/development, women/immigrant rights, homelessness and direct services. All told, more than $100,000 was directed by attendees in various amounts to participating nonprofits, including:
    • InnerCity Weightlifting - $25,000
    • Silver Lining Mentoring - $15,000
    • Samaritans - $10,000
    • Y2Y Harvard Square - $5,000
    • Breakthrough Greater Boston - $5,000
  • Sustainability: The whole purpose of Learning by Giving is to inspire the next generation of philanthropic leaders, encouraging college students to engage with their communities and truly making change along the way.
  • Excellence in management and operation: Not only did the Red Sox win the World Series, but the Learning By Giving Foundation -- a group of passionate and innovative problem-solvers that want to educate a new generation of philanthropists and distribute capital to local communities in need -- hits home runs every day.

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(Learning by Giving board chair Alex Rozek with his grandmother Doris Buffett at Philanthropy on the Field.)

To learn more about GoodInk, our corporate social responsibility practice, please email

Topics: Events, Nonprofits, GoodInk, Philanthropists, Clients

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