Expanding Your Reach

Foundation Agents Can Be Your “Boots on the Ground”

How do you fight illiteracy in Appalachia or hunger in Somalia if you’ve never even visited these places? How do you promptly support hurricane relief in the Carolinas when there isn’t time to survey the damage and determine where aid is most urgently required? How do you foster local school reform when it’s not your area of expertise?

You don’t need to hire a full staff of program experts to help you tackle obstacles of distance, language and unfamiliarity. In most cases, all you really need is an appointed agent—someone who has close knowledge and strong connections in a particular area of need and who can serve as your “boots on the ground.” A private foundation can ‘deputize’ individuals to represent its interests, seeking out hard-to find opportunities and providing funding on the spot.

Having eyes and ears on the ground is particularly valuable for foundations that do not have staff. Using an agent allows even small foundations to enjoy the impact and reach of a fully staffed organization. Having agents at the ready can be particularly effective in response to natural disasters or addressing on-the-ground needs where an immediate, informed response makes the difference between success and failure.

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