Lessons for Local Philanthropy: What We’ve Learned So Far — Part II

Introduction: The Magnify Community Pledge

By Catherine Crystal Foster, CEO and Co-Founder

In the spirit of transparent learning, Magnify Community is sharing the next set of our reflections on what we’ve learned from our work to date, as we reach the last phase of our three-year experiment in catalyzing greater local philanthropy in Silicon Valley.

Our first set of reflections focused on the tools we developed to make local giving easier, more rewarding, and higher impact.

This second installment in four chapters — shares insights from our efforts to seed a new local giving norm among high-capacity givers in Silicon Valley through a three-year pledge.

Chapter 1: Could a Local Philanthropy Pledge Spark a New Norm?

Chapter 2: From a Pledge — and a Pandemic — to a Model of Donor Organizing

Chapter 3: Lessons and Limits in Donor Organizing

Chapter 4: Progress and the Road Ahead

We developed the Magnify Community Pledge in 2019, with a formal launch in October of that year. The Pledge calls on Silicon Valley’s high-capacity donors to make a public commitment to support the nonprofits that serve the people who live or work in Silicon Valley.

For such a short-term experiment, we’re extremely proud of the progress we’ve made: 40 high-capacity individuals and family foundations pledged to increase their local giving by $47 million over a period of three years. In 2020 alone, they increased their local giving by more than $35 million (a portion of which they directly attributed to Magnify’s actions), with 79 percent of them reporting increased giving to local organizations and causes.

Yet the progress we’ve seen looks quite different from what we anticipated. We asked donors to make bold pledge commitments to give more locally and inspire others. Instead, most made rather conservative commitments, yet dramatically exceeded them. We deliberately declined to create a luxury experience and offering for those who pledged, focusing just on the simple rewards of doing the right thing. Yet, we ended up developing a deeply valued relationship with our Pledgers and a strong community among them. We hoped to reach a whole new group of converts, but instead we uncovered a yawning gap and unmet need for connection and information among the “faithful,” which we were able to address through our work.

As we prepare to sunset the initiative and transfer the mission back to the community to sustain and scale, we hope local donors will continue to surprise and impress with their desire to make Silicon Valley a better place for all of us.

Powering local philanthropy to make Silicon Valley a better place for all of us.

Powering local philanthropy to make Silicon Valley a better place for all of us.