Building relationships and understanding to connect causes to resources
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“I never had any interest in starting an organization, but then I did. It’s very humbling to have a lot to learn; you’re the executive director and so you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. You need places to go that won’t be judgmental and welcome you in, and that are friendly and patient. That was the case at Foundation Center.”
Jon Gilgoff is the senior director of programming and systems change at Brothers on the Rise in Oakland, CA. He is the founder and former executive director, a role which he held for the organization’s first eight years. But his entrepreneurial roots started while attending Columbia University’s School of Social Work. “The handful of other male students and I would get together and at first jokingly question, ‘why is there a feminist caucus but no men’s caucus? We could use student union money too!’ But then we got serious. There was a meeting, and it was on. We started the Male Action Coalition to address issues facing boys and men and be an ally to girls and women.”
Since then, Jon has utilized many tools at Foundation Center to grow with his work. As a volunteer and board member with the Young Nonprofit Professional Network in 2007, Jon visited the library to access Foundation Directory Online and came to workshops. Through the workshops, he not only received instruction on how to create a nonprofit, but networked and learned how to get funding and who to ask — and how.
Training at Foundation Center and ongoing participation in the nonprofit community supported Jon’s founding of Brothers on the Rise. “I never had any interest in starting an organization, but then I did. It’s very humbling to have a lot to learn; you’re the executive director and so you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. You need places to go that won’t be judgmental and welcome you in, and that are friendly and patient. That was the case at Foundation Center. There was good information and I remember spending hours doing the research and getting a grounding through those introductory workshops that are free, which is important when you’re small and just starting out.”
In 2016, an initiative of Brothers on the Rise called Oakland Youth Ally Alliance partnered with Foundation Center to hold a “Meet the Funder” event for its constituents, because that particular event had developed critical knowledge for Jon years prior. “An event I remember because it was the most concretely helpful was a Meet the Funder event where I met Mary Gregory from Pacific Foundation Services. She was very warm and generous and offered for me to follow up with her in the future. I don’t know how many years passed but at some point, she referred me to one foundation that she thought might be a good fit to support our work. We applied the first time and didn’t get the grant, but were encouraged to keep trying. And so we submitted the next year and the rest is history.” Jon distilled the value of this and other workshops to one word: relationships.
“I didn’t have any relationships with funders – how could I when philanthropy wasn’t my world? I don’t know anyone. So if relationships matter, Foundation Center is a place to start building them.”
The youth development-focused Meet the Funder event Jon’s group led last year was his way of sharing the knowledge and relationships he’d built over the years with others in his field. “By partnering with Foundation Center, agencies that struggle to access information and make connections around funding can get exposure to what’s available to them, and be successful.”