Two years ago, Surdna invested in the creation of a communications office to accelerate the foundation’s ability to affect change, emphasize learning and leverage, increase transparency and accountability, and facilitate greater collaboration. With these new capabilities, we have focused on: strengthening the foundation’s capacity to shape and lead critical discussions, amplifying the voices and stories of our grantees, building upon our reputation as a trusted partner and potential collaborator, and working with grantees to better identify, articulate, and meet their communications needs.
With encouragement from the board and foundation leadership, staff is: integrating targeted communications into more of its projects, experimenting with new ways of using social media, blogging about grantee advances, speaking at and designing key conferences, and approaching communications strategically and creatively.
Surdna’s President Phil Henderson, for example, has leveraged the foundation’s good standing and his leadership position to bring greater attention and understanding to a number of issues, including the billions of dollars from state and local budgets forfeited as tax giveaways to corporations and the impact of that foregone revenue on low-income communities and people of color.
Staff is using their voices—and pens—to bring greater attention to grantees’ work and to shape and move conversations critical to achieving Surdna’s mission. We continue to see the impact of our efforts across all of our grant making and in a range of venues—from opinion pieces in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other publications calling for more equitable economic development and blogs in leading architecture publications about placing communities at the center of the design processes, to moderating panel discussions on stormwater management and arguing—in an online magazine—for the critical role community development finance institutions (CDFIs) are playing in helping develop artists, arts and culture organizations.
Only two years into this new investment, a culture of communications is taking root—and we are eager and excited to build upon it.