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Community philanthropy is one of the most effective forms of nonprofit action. By combining the resources of community members, it can be superior to other forms of charitable work.

What is Community Philanthropy? There are several key aspects to it. The first part is gaining the support of community members and leveraging its resources. Then, work together to tackle the challenges that affect the region or better the quality of life. The fact that it is locally-driven makes it very different from a national charity.

For example, a nonprofit like the American Red Cross or UNICEF is simply massive. It’s designed to deserve hundreds of millions of people and stretches across continents. Major decisions will be made in its headquarters, which will often be far away from the people it’s serving. There might be some benefits to this. In some cases, it might be more efficient. Some problems require a large player to tackle.

On the other hand, community philanthropy encourages the growth of internal assets. Capacity and trust are built through participation and collaboration. An important part of community philanthropy is shared power and decision-making. While the CEO of a national nonprofit is at the top of the pyramid, community philanthropy aims to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard. The fact that everyone has a say results in a very different organization. Not only are the missions usually different but the way they are managed as well.

Community philanthropy can tap into an amazing amount of resources. Professionals can do pro-bono work. Individuals and businesses can donate cash or in-kind donations. Volunteers can contribute their knowledge and experience. Getting everyone to contribute also creates a sense of community.

Community members also have insider knowledge. They’re not some CEO in a faraway city. They know themselves and their neighbors better than an outsider. Additionally, they’ll be able to commit to things long-term because the projects are in their backyard. A national charity must answer to a board of directors and is constantly putting out fires.

Some organizations resemble community philanthropy. But it’s not classified in this category if decisions are made by one or a select group of members.

Community organizing started with the Native Americans. Soon, migrant workers adopted this practice. It became mainstream during the progressive movement when society was counteracting the negative effects of industrialization and urbanization.

Community philanthropy is a unique nonprofit activity. Many communities benefit from it.