At Boldly Go we help philanthropists and foundations tackle the big issues facing people and the planet. Place-based foundations often address both, taking on civic and environmental concerns as they seek to improve life across their community. Like all funders, place-based foundations can feel constrained by their resources.
But by right-sizing operations, impact at scale can be achieved within the resources they have. This is exemplified by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation, who has worked alongside community leaders since 1962 to help create a thriving rural East Texas.
- Founded by Georgie Temple Munz, who’s father formed the Southern Pine Lumber Company (later Temple-Inland Inc.).
- More than $440 million has been invested since its founding in 1962.
- Serves 24 counties across rural East Texas and Arkansas that have key assets and institutions, strong cultural heritage, and dedicated community leaders and members; but that also face high rates of poverty and unemployment, low educational attainment, poor health outcomes, and lack of accessible services.
- Historically operated as a general purpose, responsive grantmaker across six broad program areas: economic development, education, health, human services, arts and culture, and the environment.
ABOUT THE FOUNDATION
Leading into their 2020 strategic planning process, T.L.L. Temple found itself at a critical juncture. The foundation had long been the largest funder in the region, but it wanted to increase the leadership role it played in addressing the most significant community issues—all with a very lean staff.
Boldly Go was engaged to help craft a strategic plan that would identify opportunities for greater focus and leadership to achieve greater impact at scale—without significantly increasing staff size. This was accomplished by right-sizing grants management and evaluation, allowing the foundation to reallocate human and financial resources to the areas where they were most needed to drive impact.
PRIORITIZING AND RIGHT-SIZING FOR INCREASED IMPACT
Boldly Go led foundation staff and board through an internal assessment process aimed at discovering how it could deepen impact in specific ways within their broad charge of improving quality of life for East Texans. We examined the foundation’s history of grantmaking, identified its strengths and areas of expertise, analyzed data on the region and its issues, and interviewed staff, board members, and partners for their perspectives. The process helped us assess and prioritize the issues the Foundation would address and the benefits of right-sizing T.L.L. Temple’s portfolio and processes to shift and maximize staff time and resources.
For T.L.L. Temple, one key part of deepening impact would entail balancing a continued portfolio of general grantmaking with developing a few “deep dive” strategic areas. We prioritized all of the foundation’s areas of interest into three categories: “lead” areas where the foundation would place more proactive and strategic focus, using multiple philanthropic tools to achieve its goals; “support” areas where the foundation would actively make grants and opportunistically use other philanthropic tools; and “respond” areas where the foundation would limit itself to making grants. Similarly, we worked with the foundation to adjust its grants management and evaluation approach to be more rigorous in “lead” areas and much lighter touch in “support” and “respond” areas.
|Leadership Position||We champion this in the community, make grants, and use all tools||We speak to this as a priority, make grants, and may use other tools||We make grants when presented with good opportunities|
|Roles||All philanthropic roles||Mainly grantmaker||Grantmaker|
|Grant process/ management||Heavy touch||Moderate touch||Light touch|
|Level of Evaluation||Are we making progress at a population level?||How impactful is our portfolio of grants?||Are grantees meeting grant goals?|
|Areas of Focus||2-3 areas||5-6 areas||n/a|
As a leanly staffed organization, this new framing allows the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to make strategic choices about resources spent on each grant—from not evaluating all grants at the same level to spending less staff time on non-lead grants. It also enables staff to determine how to spend their time, who to meet with, and when to use “beyond-grantmaking” tools such as convening, capacity building, or advocacy.
With Boldly Go’s support, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation determined that they would expand their leadership role in post-secondary success and workforce development, early literacy and numeracy, access to affordable healthcare, conservation and food insecurity. We worked in close partnership with the foundation’s program officers to identify specific areas of activity, success metrics, and key partners to work with in each of these deep dive areas.
Right-sizing their grantmaking by strategically focusing their program areas and prioritizing resources spent through the Lead-Support-Response framework is making it possible for T.L.L. Temple to lean into their leadership role. Over the next five years, staff will increase the amount of time and grant budget spent on lead areas, with a goal of allocating 60% of staff focus and 60% of all grant dollars to lead areas by 2025 (grown from 27% in the 2016-2020 strategic plan).
INTO THE FUTURE
We’re heartened by the impact that T.L.L. Temple continues to have since our engagement. Identifying the foundation’s highest priorities has positively influenced how the board and staff spend their time. Board conversations are more focused and staff see their work more clearly. As a place based grantmaker, T.L.L. Temple has identified many opportunities to integrate lead priorities in partnership with key anchor institutions to deepen community impact. For example, better connecting education and employment by having schools serve as centers for workforce and skill development; having food pantries not just address immediate needs but provide digital navigation to longer-term support services; or having health clinics “write prescriptions” for healthy fruits and vegetables. This approach has helped the foundation break down silos between program areas to better address the most critical community needs.
The process Boldly Go led us through contributed to a strategic plan that was grounded in our expertise, informed by our learning over time, reflective of community input, and motivated by creating impact at scale. The engagement also helped us build the capacity of our team, so we can continue the work on our own.– Wynn Rosser, president and CEO, T.L.L. Temple Foundation