We partner with nonprofits to create a more just and equitable future for individuals and communities.
Our giving often includes multi-year general operating support accompanied by light-touch reporting requirements and optional, responsive capacity-building opportunities, which ensure organizations can lead their work with more support and fewer barriers.
How does the Philanthropy team’s work ladder up to EC’s mission of pursuing a more equal and just world?
Our partners dedicate their lives to some of the hardest and most important work imaginable—and they do it with extraordinary grace, courage and passion. We are honored to support them, learn from them, and seek new and meaningful ways to be of service to them. We think the most important question we can ask as a funder is, “How can we help and what can we learn?” We understand how unique a tool philanthropy is for justice and equity. Philanthropy allows for resources—dollars, connectivity, access—to be directed towards causes that are underfunded, not understood, or ignored. It allows for work to happen that cannot or should not exist as a profit-generating company. And I think philanthropy, if you practice it in a generative way, can accomplish things that the government can't or won’t in a responsive and timely fashion. But if the government can see philanthropy working, it can change its approach to communities to build more opportunity, access, and choice.
You frequently describe EC’s approach as “frictionless philanthropy.” Can you talk about what that means, and why it's an important way we work?
We strongly believe that nonprofits are the leaders and doers of important work, and we should entrust them to do their work in the way they know best, with as little friction imposed by funders as possible. Our frictionless approach impacts every aspect of our grantmaking. For example, we primarily make multiyear, general operating grants so that organizations have the agency to decide for themselves how to use the funds, and can spend less time on fundraising each year. We also have light touch reporting requirements, to ensure organizations spend very little time creating reporting materials for us. We also offer support beyond the grant—optional tools, resources, and trainings—that organizations can access easily, at no cost, to ensure they have the resources and flexibility to invest in themselves.
Why does EC's Philanthropy team choose to give anonymously?
Emerson Collective’s goal is to shine light on strong social change work and movements, as well as strong thought leaders and innovators. We want to change hearts and minds as well as systems, and to lift up voices that are not always heard. For this reason, most of our philanthropy is done anonymously in keeping with our view of the proper spirit of giving and to honor the work of our grantees. We want to ensure that the spotlight stays on them and recognizes them as the leaders they are. It is important that as funders, we recognize that this work is not about us.
What do you look for when making a grant?
We look for two fundamental things: bold leaders and dynamic models. The leaders we seek out are knowledgeable about and proximate to their field and the system they plan to change. The models that interest us are designed to listen to the voices of the people most affected by the issue, to gather data to understand costs and impact, and to iterate towards increasingly stronger solutions. We acknowledge that success looks different for different kinds of models—from serving individuals at a greater scale, to collecting data that effectively bolsters the case for reforms and greater protections in law and policy, to transforming processes so that community members are at the table or have a more integral role in shaping solutions from the start. Each of the issues that Emerson works on are critical, complex, and will take more than one generation to solve. Collectively, our partners create a diverse groundswell that looks to both the short-term and long-term horizons.
What inspires you about working in philanthropic giving?
In my career, I have had the opportunity to play lots of roles. I was an investment banker and a senior leader at a for-profit company, and I’ve been an Executive Director and sat on more than 30 nonprofit boards. I am a mom, daughter, wife, dog mom, and I even sing cabaret in piano bars. While all of these roles have been important and meaningful, philanthropy has uniquely given me the opportunity to be in conversation with such an incredible variety of people who can change the world for the better with their care, intelligence, and passion. My team here at Emerson is filled with entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and educators, and among our grantee partners, there is an incredible corps of inspirational leaders. I am on hundreds of calls with grantees every year and never leave a conversation without learning something new or thinking deeply about a smart and thoughtful way an organization is taking on a challenge and shaping our world for the better.
Managing Director, Philanthropy