McGowan Mission Spending:
In early November, the staff and board of directors of the McGowan Fund gathered in Washington, DC for an evening of camaraderie and idea sharing. Instead of heading to an expensive dinner or catered affair, however, the group boarded a bus and traveled to Martha's Table, an organization that serves the homeless and hungry in the nation's capital. There, the board helped serve dinner to some of the thousands of people that Martha's Table feeds each year at its facility in Northwest DC and at various sites throughout the city via its mobile vans.
This evening of community outreach was rewarding to the board members who participated, but it was no one-time, feel-good experience. It was the latest example of the board's commitment to be active participants in the communities the Fund supports. In 2009, the board decided to substitute some of its formal social gatherings with hands-on community service activities. Since adopting the community outreach program, the board has combined each of its regular meetings with a community service project or event. They have gathered at the Chicago Food Depository, assembled hygiene kits for Night Ministry and helped paint a gym at Young Men's Educational Network (YMEN), also in Chicago.
"These informal conversations and interactions are so important to our understanding of the challenges our grantees face," said board President Sue Gin McGowan. "By participating in our communities in this way–informally and throughout the year–we become better grant makers."
Another practical application of the Fund's vision is the new Mission Spending program. The Fund now strives to contract only with organizations that share the same core values and give back to their communities in some way. "We expect our partners, vendors, suppliers and anyone we do business with to be philanthropically engaged in their communities," said Executive Director Diana Spencer. "We don't have parameters around specific contributions or levels of philanthropy, but strongly believe everyone can--and should--be agents of positive change in their respective communities."
Through such day-to-day operations, community service projects and ongoing community dialogue, the staff and board are bringing the McGowan Fund's vision to life in meaningful and important ways.