By Elysa Gordon
Vice President of Community Impact
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving seeks to put philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities in the Greater Hartford region.  To meet our mission, we ask: what does a vibrant community look and feel like? 

Our answer is informed by residents throughout the region who share their lived experiences and aspirations, data about community assets and challenges, and the work of nonprofits.  From there, we understand that a vibrant community is healthy and resilient, making space for and valuing the contributions of all residents.  Its institutions have open doors that all residents can walk through and find paths to success.  Food security, high quality, affordable housing, safe streets, excellent schools and year-round enrichment resources are found in every neighborhood.   We also know that a region where entire communities are systematically excluded is neither vibrant nor sustainable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated longstanding inequities.  In 2019, the Foundation announced a strategic framework focused on addressing these disparities, and the past year has both reinforced our commitment and challenged everything about the way we work.  We are now more explicit about naming the root cause of inequitable opportunity – systemic racism – and our role in the region.  Prioritizing our resources to dismantle structural racism is mission-critical.

Bloomfield residents gather at an unveiling ceremony on 9/1/20 for Black Lives Matter murals painted throughout the town and funded by the Hartford Foundation. Photo by Maza Rey Photography.

Understanding that philanthropy has a role to play in redistributing wealth and power, we recently awarded $2.1 million to The Prosperity Foundation, a Black-led philanthropic organization, and The Hispanic Federation-Connecticut, a Latinx-led funder and capacity builder, to support organizations on the frontlines of racial justice efforts.  We are also doing internal work to embed diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization-wide operations, grantmaking and community engagement.

The Foundation continues its strong stewardship of the resources entrusted to us, carrying out due diligence to ensure that funded work is properly resourced, sustainable and has measurable impact for the community.   As a community foundation, we convene local stakeholders who can identify local solutions.  Our endowment enables us to take informed risks to test new ideas; often we are first funder in to incentivize and last funder in to help efforts cross the finish line.  Working with a range of partners, we now prioritize these mission-critical outcomes:

Increase the number of Hartford residents living in higher opportunity neighborhoods by growing investment in Hartford neighborhoods and enhancing quality, affordable housing for Hartford residents living in Hartford and the region.

Increase employment opportunities for Black and Latinx adults and youth in the region by supporting student well-being and success, removing barriers to completion of post-secondary degree or credentialing, and improving access to capital for Black and Latinx small businesses.

Address vital human needs in the region by applying an equity lens to the systems and programs that address food and housing, physical and mental health and the digital divide.

A Bellizzi School family gets their child ready for the upcoming school year at a backpack distribution event held on 8/11/20 by Hartford Public Schools and the Hartford Foundation. Photo by Defining Studios.

Support arts and culture in our region, in collaboration with the Foundation’s advisory group, Artists of Color Unite, by expanding opportunities for artists of color and racial/ethnic diversity in the region’s arts workforce.

Support civic and resident engagement throughout the region by resourcing resident-led advocacy and organizing efforts and inclusive civic processes.

The Foundation also knows that stable, resilient and inclusive organizations are a key ingredient to dismantling structural racism and advancing equitable economic and social mobility.  As a result, we provide resources to support a wide array of nonprofits in developing effective leadership that reflect the communities they serve, sound financial management and the tools to plan, implement and assess strategies.  We are strengthening data and evaluation in the region and statewide and making sense of information alongside stakeholders.  Recognizing that our resources alone are insufficient for needed systemic change, we regularly share learning with policymakers.

We are optimistic that this series of Foundation-authored articles, highlighting how we approach our work and what we are learning, will catalyze conversations at dinner tables and in boardrooms, in town halls and at the State Capitol.  And we hope these conversations lead to actions that elevate a vibrant community for all as our collective mission.