Building Local Partnerships to Strengthen our Community

Collaboration between constituents, communities and funders is instrumental to our approach to grantmaking at Letters Foundation.

In order to reach the people Doris Buffett has supported over the years, we launched the Foundation’s first strategic effort to build partnerships with community-based nonprofits in Greater Boston in March of 2017.  Starting with a group of select nonprofits, we began to accept referrals from constituents connected to advocates through our new Community Partners Program. After a year of this pilot, we conducted a full evaluation of the program, hearing directly from our partners about their experiences and gathering feedback on ways we could improve our process for our mutual constituents.

During this evaluation, our partners reinforced the life-changing impact of our individual grants, and provided frank and constructive feedback on our due diligence.  We invited our partners to work with us this summer to better understand what a successful grantmaking process would look like. This dialogue allowed for us to see opportunities where we could amend our grantmaking to reflect a more strengths-based, trauma-informed, human-centered process.

We are grateful for our partners’ honesty and continued dedication to the dignity and well-being of our community, and thrilled to support our mutual constituents through a process that was developed in the spirit of true collaboration.  Three of our community partners shared their thoughts on collaborating with the Letters Foundation:

When our respective organizations were invited by Letters Foundation to learn more about a potential partnership, we were, at first, simply grateful to know Letters was familiar with our work, and we were all definitely interested in learning more.  At all of our organizations, we support and work with individuals and families who are resilient and resourceful. These families also often deal with significant trauma histories and face financial hardships.

At Boston Medical Center’s Domestic Violence Program, we work with current and past survivors of domestic violence who often face financial hardships, particularly if the abuse or the abuser has directly impacted their ability to keep a job, maintain good credit, or even access and control their own money or other benefits.  At Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, we work with survivors of sexual violence, who sometimes experience economic instability or crisis that can severely impact their ability to rebuild hope. At Compass Working Capital, we work with families from low income households who often face systemic barriers to move out of the cycle of poverty, which deeply affects their ability to build savings for long-term financial stability.

Unlike traditional funding sources, Letters is able to address personal economic needs through generous individual grants, and has helped a number of our shared clients through various unforeseen challenges.  To have Letters as a partner and a resource is invaluable because the program makes it possible for people to continue making strides toward their financial goals, instead of being derailed by the unexpected.  Letters is committed to giving at a level that really positions individuals and families to overcome an obstacle and progress in their lives.

Letters also gave us the opportunity to share our feedback on the Community Partners Program, showing they value learning how to better serve the community and are putting clients’ needs first.  This has definitely been an empowering aspect for our clients.

What we most appreciate about Letters is their genuine desire to help people in the ways THEY need to be helped, their investment in our community by understanding the direct needs of our clients, and the thoughtfulness with which Letters has engaged with partners in gathering and listening to our feedback.  It has been great to work with a funder who cares so much about the experience of those they are funding at all stages of the process.

Our partnership with Letters Foundation has been a refreshingly new experience, an exciting journey, and we are so grateful for the support of Doris and for the work Letters does every day.

 — Joanne Timmons, MPH, of Boston Medical Center Domestic Violence Program; Clare Namugga and Becca Britton-Anastas of Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC); Tania Shabazz of Compass Working Capital

A big thank you to all of the nonprofits that participated in our pilot year:

Aaron's Presents
Aaron’s Presents: helps kids in 8th grade and below empower themselves by using who they are for good

Asian Task Force
Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK): serves Pan-Asian survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence throughout Massachusetts

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC): empowers survivors of sexual violence to heal and provides education and advocacy on the social change needed to prevent sexual violence

Boston Medical
Boston Medical Center Domestic Violence Program: a resource for patients, employees, community members, and anyone who is seeking information or help with domestic violence

Compass Working Capital
Compass Working Capital: supports families with low incomes to build assets and financial capabilities as a pathway to greater economic opportunity, out of poverty

Children With Voices
Children With Voices: facilitates services for children who have witnessed domestic violence and their non-offending parent

Economic Mobility Pathways: transforms people’s lives by helping them move out of poverty and provides other institutions with the tools to systemically do the same

Family Independence Initiative
Family Independence Initiative: trusts and invests in low-income families across the nation so they can work individually and collectively to achieve prosperity

Gavin Foundation
Gavin Foundation: provides comprehensive adult, youth, community substance abuse education, prevention, treatment programs

Hospitality House
Hospitality House: breaking cycles of poverty and homelessness in Mid-Coast Maine

Horizons For Homeless Children
Horizons for Homeless Children: works to improve the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts and help their families succeed in providing high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and comprehensive family support services

Jeremiah Program
Jeremiah Program: prepares determined single mothers to excel in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance

Jewish Family Services
Jewish Family Services: dedicated to empowering individuals, strengthening families, protecting the vulnerable and helping seniors age safely and with dignity in their homes by providing innovative social services

Justice Resource Institute
Justice Resource Institute (JRI Health): partners with individuals and communities to achieve the health and justice we all deserve

Martha Eliot Health Center
Martha Eliot Health Center: provides primary and preventive care for children, adolescents and young adults

My Life My Choice
My Life My Choice: works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children by empowering youth and their families through survivor led programs

One Family
One Family Inc.: aims to prevent homelessness and break the cycle of family poverty in Massachusetts by promoting pathways to economic independence through advocacy, education, and innovation

Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment
Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment: provides community members with the skills and resources to develop their future vision for economic empowerment and move towards personal financial success and wealth building

Red Sox Foundation
Red Sox Scholars Program: a college scholarship and enrichment program managed by the Red Sox Foundation

Women's Lunch Plate
Women’s Lunch Place: serves healthy breakfasts and lunches six days a week to self-identifying women in the community, and provides basic services and necessities that help restore dignity and hope

Wellspring House
Wellspring House: empowers individuals and families to live more secure lives through basic needs assistance, education and job training

ZUMIX: an East-Boston based nonprofit dedicated to building community through music and creative technology for youth and their families

Our Community Partners Appreciation Event, hosted at More Than Words in Boston, August 2018.
A snapshot of our giving through the Community Partners Program during our pilot year.