Introduction

You are board members of the 20-year-old Norton Family Foundation (NFF) based in Waybury, Vermont.  The mission of your foundation is to "empower people to shape the future of their communities by:
  • improving local decision-making
  • creating a shared sense of belonging, and
  • ultimately strengthening the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of each place."
To organize your change work, NFF employs the "Heart & Soul method, a barn-raising approach to community planning and development designed to increase participation in local decision-making and empower residents to shape the future of their communities in a way that upholds the unique character of each place."

For your 20th anniversary, Norton has decided to expand its reach, however.  High yields on endowment investment and a growing awareness of regional issues has lead the board to consider a new regional initiative, which would expand the use the tools developed for community planning to address a broader issue. You wish to target an issue where affected communities lack sufficient voice and empowerment to draw sufficient attention and resources.

Norton seeks to fund a nonprofit agency dedicated to a marginalized community, one with the size, expertise, and history needed to address a systemic regional or statewide issue that is beyond the capacity of individual communities to address.  Proposing nonprofits would also agree to adopt some of the strategies and tools Norton has developed to organize communities, recognizing that the principles of community empowerment and informed leadership are a strong component in any systemic change.  In this way, NFF would maintain its mission, but amplify the power of its philanthropy. 

The question is:  which agency, which issue?  Because this is a new area and NFF has no track record addressing issues of this scale, you do not want to commit beyond a reasonable expectation of demonstrated impact, so that you can re-invest elsewhere if necessary.

To support this process, NFF has developed an RFP (Request for Proposals) and circulated it, and the deadline for proposals has just passed.  An initial review of proposals identified three qualified candidates. 

Because NFF's goal is to make an impact, your decision must weigh the capacity of the nonprofit, the importance and urgency of the issue, and the strategy proposed.

Which proposal will you, the Trustees of Norton, choose?