By Abby Rolland
According to a 2019 article in Forbes about the size of private foundations, 98% of all private foundations have assets of less than $50 million, and 67% have assets of less than $1 million. While large foundations such as Gates, Ford, and Rockefeller receive a great deal of media attention, the reality is that most foundations operate on a much smaller level.
Corresponding to the amount of assets a foundation has is often its number of staff. Larger foundations have a large professional staff who manage their grantmaking, investments, and other aspects of work, while many small foundations have no staff and operate on a volunteer level. There are other staffing models that work for foundations at different life cycles; what’s important is for funder stakeholders to recognize the type of staffing model needed at a specific time.
Depending on the overall strategy and approach of the philanthropic entity influences the type of staffing that it needs. So, what if a funder needed some assistance with administration, grants management, investment management, and/or strategy, but didn’t need full-time, in-house staff?
It was a belief in a solution to this question that drove Teresa Araco Rodgers to create harp-weaver. After working at SEI in investments and philanthropy for 16 years, Teresa noticed that clients of hers wanted to give back, needed a formal structure to do (via a foundation or donor-advised fund (DAF)), but didn’t need full-time staff to run the organization. There wasn’t a viable solution to their dilemma. So, Teresa created harp-weaver to provide outsourced staffing to small and medium-sized foundations and DAFs.
While harp-weaver provides other services, such as philanthropy advice, mission alignment, and other project support, serving as staff for multiple funders is its core service.
The arrangement works well for both parties in many ways. For one, small funders receive the benefit of professional and knowledgeable staff managing grantmaking and the other day-to-day activities. Meanwhile, harp-weaver staff work as full-time employees based on their roles with multiple funders.
For several clients, harp-weaver also manages the administrative processes. In other words, harp-weaver manages the HR functions such as the management of employees, payroll, and the benefits packages, oversees the professional development for employees, provides feedback to employees, and more. This simplifies and lessens the work of the funder’s board and/or individuals involved. In other words, they can enjoy the giving of charitable gifts without worrying about the administration.
Not only do the logistics work well for all parties, but funders benefit from harp-weaver’s work with other charitable individuals and entities. With knowledge of and familiarity with funding areas, harp-weaver uses information learned from one funder to inform work with others. Funders also learn of new ideas through funder groups that harp-weaver is a member of. The collective knowledge sharing benefits each funder that harp-weaver works with.
Other benefits for funders who outsource staff include leveraging the connections that the firm already has. That could be to experts such as website designer/s, graphic designer/s, and/or printing provider/s, advisors on tax, legal, or communications efforts, or access to accounting and bookkeeping practitioners.
harp-weaver serves as a solution to a dilemma that small and medium-sized funders face. These funders are able to maximize impact and catalyze change with professional staff who want to make a difference. Using an outsourced staffing solution, harp-weaver provides funders with the tools, resources, and assistance they need to make a greater difference.
To learn more about how harp-weaver works with external consultants on various projects, keep an eye out for the next post in this series!