Collective Impact: A Case Study

Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy stepped in to develop a collaborative approach to funding to allow both the United Way and its subgrantees to focus on program outcomes rather than fundraising.

High school graduation has long been a priority for many organizations in Greenville County. Students who drop out before graduating high school are at a significant disadvantage, earning less money than a high school graduate, tapping into more government services, and developing more health problems. Dropouts are five times more likely to be incarcerated and six times more likely to be a teen parent.

Research indicates that middle school is the time to intervene before students begin the path to becoming high school dropouts. In 2014, the Corporation for Community and National Service awarded a three-year, $3 million Social Innovation Fund grant to the United Way of Greenville County and Greenville County Schools to develop an Early Warning and Response System to keep at-risk middle school students on track.

This investment of $1 million per year would be used in large part to support the work of local partners to provide tutoring, health care, mental health services, teacher support and more in the target middle schools. Each partner would be required by the Social Innovation Fund to raise a 1:1 match for the grant dollars it received from United Way to do the work of the Early Warning and Response System.

It was here that the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy found a way to maximize the impact of this incredible initiative.

Without a collaborative funding process, local funders would have received multiple requests for Social Innovation Fund match-projects from the subgrantees, and it would have been difficult to discern which proposals had the most merit. Furthermore, without funders stepping back and understanding the full scope of funding needs, some promising programs may have gone without while others might have received multiple awards.

Instead, GPP developed a process for funders to either invest in a pooled fund at the Community Foundation of Greenville, which could then be used to support all subgrantees of United Way’s Social Innovation Fund grant, or participate in a matchmaking process through which they could together consider requests from the subgrantees and determine which funder would be interested in funding which program.

The results have been positive: the process raised the full match needed by the United Way and its five subgrantees that comprise the Early Warning and Response System, which launched in four Greenville County Middle Schools in the fall of 2015. A single evaluation process conducted by the Riley Institute at Furman University will be relied on by each funder, rather than having multiple reporting requirements for the subgrantees. But it also gave funders the opportunity to work together in new ways and to better understand the needs and challenges that grantees experience when pursuing funding.

To learn more about the middle grades success initiative, called OnTrack Greenville, visit their website.


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