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Engines & fuel – the work & the money – collective impact & collective funding

Giving my elevator speech about Prosper Waco just got a lot harder. There is a lot going on. In all the areas of health, education & workforce, and financial security Prosper Waco is humming. The sound you hear is an engine functioning effectively and moving towards collaborative solutions to benefit our community.

Every engine needs fuel, and every ecosystem needs nourishment. More than 45 community leaders met on a Zoom call April 8 to review the work of more than 17 working groups. At Prosper Waco we are actively seeking funding from foundations and other sources outside of Waco to bring more net resources to the collective work of community organizations like those represented in these 45 leaders. Many generous donors have helped support Prosper Waco efforts through the years and our goal is to multiply each investment.

It takes a variety of initiatives to assess and address the gaps in our community and it takes a variety of funding streams to keep the engine humming. Almost all grant funding that comes in to Prosper Waco has designated uses, either inside our organization – like paying for a specific staff position or program – or a designated purpose outside Prosper Waco – like paying for tuition scholarships for workplace training. But there are other funding streams:

  • Some grant funds come to Prosper Waco to serve as a trusted broker by passing through the money to other organizations and their efforts in education, health, and financial security.

  • Some funds, especially gifts from local supporters, help to underwrite the basic operations of Prosper Waco that are not covered by specified grant funding – like printing costs and office expenses.

  • And some funds are committed to work by contracts where Prosper Waco provides a dedicated service – often in data or leadership.

One of my favorite modern day scientists is Edith Widder, founder of ORCA (Ocean Research and Conservation Association) and she founded her organization to more closely and quickly restore the ocean ecosystem. She says, “There is no preparing for the future without exploration and innovation.” I agree whether on land or sea.

Prosper Waco was created based on a collective impact model to explore and implement strategies and tactics that enable big impact. These strategies require innovation. I knew a lot about collective impact when I took the job as CEO of Prosper Waco. I have come to understand the parallel nature of collective funding, too. In order to successfully engage with many sectors of the Waco community, we need several types of funding that are aligned with each work. I didn’t really foresee the task of creating complex funding systems as a part of the innovation that was called for by collective impact work, but it certainly is!

Collective impact requires a collection of funding strategies that can be customized to provide a return on investment to the community. And I feel a deep sense of gratitude:

  • I am grateful to Dexter Hall, our chief of staff, for his knowledge and energy towards mapping our way forward.

  • I am grateful to Hermann Pereira, our chief program officer, for seeking out funding opportunities on the horizon.

  • We are grateful to the City of Waco, donors, contributors, foundations, businesses, education institutions, and partners that have helped to provide fuel to an engine of progress and nourishment to the human ecosystem that is a thriving city.

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco.

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