Philanthropists Lillian and Rodney Shuff like to get connected to the nonprofits they support.
Lillian and Rodney Shuff have a philosophy of responsible, engaged philanthropy: They believe it requires true partnership and collaboration. With every organization they support, they actively engage in dialogue to deeply understand needs and recognize opportunities.
"We get to learn and support the work, without trying to control any aspect," says Lillian. "It's exciting to me when an executive director comes to me and says, 'OK. We're having this problem.' When they express a vulnerability, it tells me we're creating an open environment."
"We like to think of ourselves as partners, she continues. "It's so much more enriching to have a strong personal connection -- a relationship -- rather than just giving money. Those relationships are a big deal to us."
Helping nonprofits attain financial sustainability is a major driver of the Shuff's work with the NowHere Fund, a new family foundation that practices a connection-based approach to grantmaking. Through NowHere, they support the Colorado Nonprofit Social Enterprise Exchange, which helps nonprofits (including Girls Inc. and The Gathering Place, both featured in our giving guide on page 14) develop reliable sources of income that increase their financial sustainability.
"The social enterprise model frees up nonprofits to be a little bit more stable and to be a little more focused on the good work, rather than worrying about funders," says Rodney.
The Shuff's philanthropy was shaped by their experiences as young philanthropists looking for new ways to inform their giving. Building on what they'd learned as part of a well-established family foundation founded by Lillian's mother, Swanee Hunt, They structured the NowHere Fund as a flexible, organization-first foundation that runs on trust.
"We try to be very clear that we like to have open conversations," says Lillian. "We don't want [nonprofits] to feel like they have to hide an discouraging news or setbacks. It seems to make a difference for the grantees when you say, 'How can I help you?' instead of, 'We're going to do this.' Together you can see setbacks as opportunities. This helps them feel like they can take a little more of a risk."
As the parents of four young children, the Shuffs hope their approach to giving, with an emphasis on partnership and transparency, will catch on as a model for changemaking now and in the future.
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