Stand Together Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit bankrolled by industrialist Charles Koch, is committing $30 million to an initiative that will enlist 100 community-based nonprofits as partners in a program designed to tackle the root causes of poverty.
The partners — which the foundation calls “catalysts” — will receive impact grants of up to $300,000 each over a three-year period along with training and coaching in the foundation’s Principle-Based Management program of leadership development, which aims to transform and empower individuals by schooling them in the principles of entrepreneurship.
In doing so, the foundation hopes to create an army of “social entrepreneurs” — nonprofit leaders and organizations with the resources, knowledge and tools to “disrupt” and change the current paradigm for addressing poverty through social welfare channels.
The foundation claims this paradigm too often fails by treating the victims of poverty as “broken and deficient” and as “problems to be managed” rather than as agents of their own uplift and transformation, thus making poverty easier to endure but harder to escape.
The initiative being unveiled will take a different approach anchored in a belief in people’s ability to improve their own lives and the power of the community to solve the country’s toughest problems, said Evan Feinberg, the foundation’s executive director.
To date, 25 nonprofit “catalysts” have been selected to join the initiative based on their shared commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty by enabling those in its clutches to discover their full potential.
The remaining 75 “catalysts” will be selected over the next three years from a variety of organizations focused on issues ranging from education, job training and healthcare to female and minority entrepreneurship, with a common denominator being their shared commitment to individual growth and empowerment.
“We’ll measure this effort in two important ways,” Feinberg told The NonProfit Times. “First, we hope to see many more people overcoming barriers to live lives of meaning and purpose. Included in this grant program is a pioneering new measurement approach to measure the personal transformation of the people served by these incredible social entrepreneurs. Second, we want to see these organizations emerge as leaders, innovators, and disruptors of the social sector – so we’ll want to see their platforms grow over time.”
The Stand Together Foundation was founded by billionaire businessman and political donor Charles Koch in 2003 and has long acknowledged his continued support for its efforts.
As CEO of Koch Industries — a conglomerate he co-founded with his late brother, David Koch, in 1967 — Charles Koch oversees one of the country’s largest privately held companies with operations across a range of industries including petroleum, chemicals, manufacturing and finance.
A devoted libertarian and Forbes Top 25 philanthropist, Koch has long supported a variety of libertarian and free market-oriented think tanks, causes and political groups. However, in recent years, he has shifted much of his attention to bipartisan causes such as criminal justice reform as well as civil society initiatives aimed at empowering people through personal responsibility, volunteerism and self-help.
This latest initiative by the Stand Together Foundation will build on those efforts and be funded by what the foundation described as a support network of more than 700 leaders in business and philanthropy.
“This initiative is about deepening our partnership so that catalysts can scale their reach, better understand their impact, and ultimately transform the way society thinks about addressing social barriers,” Feinberg said. “If these organizations continue to grow in their effectiveness and everyone in the country hears about what they are doing, we can transform the entire social sector in America.”
The Stand Together Foundation’s total reported income for fiscal year 2020 was just more than $260 million, according to its most recently available federal Form 990. The 2021 form will be available later this month, said a spokesman.