To administer the Searle Collaborative Funds, the Trust works closely with Kinship Foundation—a private operating foundation that advances the institutional philanthropy of the Searle family. The two organizations have a long history of working together to create large-scale, strategic grant making initiatives designed to maximize the Searle Funds’ impact.
To learn more about this unique partnership, we sat down with Angel Gibson, executive vice president of Kinship Foundation, and Peggy Davis, the Trust’s vice president of Community Impact.
What has made the collaboration between Kinship Foundation and the Trust so successful to date?
Peggy Davis: To me, it’s the long-term relationships between our institutions and our team members. It’s also our willingness to be open to new possibilities for how we might work together to advance our mutual areas of interest.
For example, as part of our Food:Land:Opportunity initiative, we developed the Food to Market Challenge—a one-time philanthropic prize competition for local groups working to strengthen the sustainable food market here in the region. We stayed open to where the initiative might go, and it was great on so many levels. The teams ended up getting funding not just from us, but from other funders who were so impressed with their ideas.
Angel Gibson: I agree that it’s really about the people. We have smart people within both institutions who respect each other and what each organization brings to the table. Our teams are willing to put in the work it takes to collaborate, and we’re committed to continuous learning.
What is a strategic grant making initiative, and what makes it impactful?
Angel Gibson: A strategic initiative is about moving a big idea forward. We identify a set of smart investments, usually over a multi-year period, that we believe will move us closer to meeting a very ambitious goal. Strategic initiatives also tend to be built with an inherent flexibility in approach or leadership style. That’s what allows us to collaborate effectively with grant recipients and be responsive to their needs and input.
Peggy Davis: I absolutely agree and thought of Bridges to Brighter Futures, our current education initiative. We were scheduled to launch right when the pandemic hit and had to immediately pivot alongside our grant recipients. They were figuring out how to work with students who were learning remotely and, in many cases, needed basic emergency support.
Angel Gibson: That’s right. Recently we’ve held two convenings with Bridges grant recipients to facilitate collaborative learning and hear their thoughts on how we might adjust our approach. So, we’re working to create this constant feedback loop that makes the work stronger.
What types of strategic initiatives might we see from Kinship Foundation and the Trust in the future?
Angel Gibson: We want to build on our existing work. For example, right now our teams are exploring how we might create a new financing vehicle to help our Food:Land:Opportunity grant recipients access the capital they need to advance their projects. It’s still very early, but we are so excited to see what will happen because we have great minds working on this. It could end up being a model that gets replicated in other communities.
Peggy Davis: We consider it a privilege to be able to do what we’re doing in the way that we’re doing it—to have partners who are willing to learn with us, and the ability to work alongside our grant recipients. We look forward to many more years of collaboration with Kinship Foundation.