What is CDP?

Community and regional foundations across the country are finding, creating and embracing opportunities to use the full range of their assets and tools in ways that generate better economic prospects and more broadly shared prosperity for their regions. In short, they are practicing Community Development Philanthropy (CDP).

Foundations practice Community Development Philanthropy when they address critical community issues and play integrating or missing roles to advance regional economic development in ways that build enduring prosperity and livelihoods for all, especially those at the margins.

Too often, something is missing from economic development conversations – a longer term, regional view and a broader definition of prosperity. Community development philanthropy, as a practice, helps place-rooted foundations step into these conversations and plant these perspectives. Among regional institutions that hold the vision of a prosperous economy for all, community and regional foundations naturally hold a longer-term perspective on and commitment to their regions. Many cover a region where there are numerous political jurisdictions, and the foundation is one of the few (and at times only) institutions that span the region and can bring it together. Living and working close to the ground, place-rooted foundations have relationships across the economic, social and political spectrums. Every day, they see the intricate connections between people, place and business – and how they affect each other.

Place-rooted foundations also typically shoulder, through their missions, a deep concern that development efforts in their regions produce prosperity that is broadly shared. And it’s in their self-interest: they prosper when more people in the region prosper, so place-rooted foundations sense that what qualifies as a true economic development approach produces results for the have-not’s as well as the have’s, for tomorrow as well as today. For example, besides traditional measures of economic development, community and regional foundations also consider: How many families are doing better, and entering the economic mainstream? Are our natural resources being used in a way that will make them last for future generations? Are new jobs going to local people, and are local people prepared – from early childhood on – to hold them? Are decisions being made about and for people with or without their participation in the decision-making? Community and regional foundations can bring a focus on rooting wealth, broadly defined, to the design of economic development.

Community and regional foundations, when they practice Community Development Philanthropy, also bring a wider range of assets and tools to the table than the average community or economic development organization. They have networks, convening power, endowed and non-endowed funds, investment resources and savvy, wide-ranging leadership connections and influence, deep knowledge of the community, the ability to make grants, loans and investments – and to run programs when no one else is there to do it. They can use those assets flexibly to help generate a local economy that is driven by the many for the benefit of the many. They are in a unique position to connect the dots, fill gaps, unleash energy and leverage different kinds of economic development action.

To see examples of CDP on the ground, go to Foundations in Action.