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Involving the Philanthropic & Corporate Community

The Philanthropic Community Can Support a Wide Range of Violence Prevention Activities

“Nothing is off the table. Whatever a foundation's mission, they have a role in this,” said Shawn Dove of the Open Society Foundation. As discussed, most private sector entities do not have violence or crime prevention or gun violence prevention in their portfolios. However, because effective comprehensive violence prevention strategies engage so many civic and governmental actors in addition to covering a wide variety of operational areas, the opportunities for philanthropic sector involvement are vast and limited only by the ability of local leaders to show how parts of the city's violence prevention work fit into the philanthropy's particular mission.

Listed below are just some of the many ways foundations can support local violence prevention efforts.


Foundations can help identify the scope and depth of a city's crime problems, where crime concentrates, where service gaps are located, and what evidence-based programs exist to help positively impact youth who are at risk of engaging in community violence. An example of this is Boston's Foundations Collaborative. A city might be tempted to dive into “solutions” immediately. Tragic deaths and fear often spur quick action. Foundations are some of the few entities with the resources to help a jurisdiction get to know and understand the root cause and key levers of the violence problem before they leap to a quick fixes and often superficial solutions.


“Typically perceived as neutral, philanthropic organizations are not beholden to any particular ideology, political party or administration. This role as a neutral convener can be instrumental in bringing together a diverse and broad alliance of agencies, funders, and community partners, which in turn can lead to multi-level opportunities for solutions at the community level.”1 Foundations can fund the initial thinking and planning; they can fund community forums, essential to discovering what crime-affected communities think, and how they might help; they can help fund a consultant to help write a citywide plan; they can underwrite the cost of conferences, and can support city and community leaders to attend relevant conferences in cities across the country. The Boston Foundation, State Street Corporation, and the United Way of Greater Boston and Merrimack Valley support both research and monthly convening of the philanthropic community in order to focus and coordinate investments, thus maximizing efficiency and effectiveness and avoiding duplication.

Staff and Capacity Building

  • City Capacity. City budgets across the nation are being slashed. Staff is at a premium. Comprehensive violence prevention work necessitates at least one dedicated staffer. While some cities like Salinas and Sacramento have actually created such positions with city funds, most cities have had to rely on outside help. The Stoneleigh Foundation has funded a Fellow to help organize and drive Philadelphia's comprehensive planning process: “We fund fellows who work inside and alongside government to translate research into policy and practice changes to improve how we as a community respond to the needs of vulnerable children,” said Cathy Weiss, Director of the Stoneleigh Foundation. The Skillman Foundation in Detroit has done the same.

Because of deep and in some cases crippling budget cuts, the Kellogg Foundation and Skillman have helped to provide stopgap funding for “essential” city services, such as helping to keep recreation centers open and providing support to police efforts. “If youth don't have recreation available, they'll get into trouble,” said Johnson of the Kellogg.

  • Neighborhood Capacity. Many foundations, among them the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Skillman, and Kellogg, will help beef up the capacity of programs doing the tough on-ground work in crime-besieged communities. This can mean staff support, work with boards, assistance with record keeping, financial management, and reporting. To help build neighborhood capacity, the Wellness Foundation contributed $1 million to help support neighborhood Gang Reduction Youth Development Zones in Los Angeles.

Policy Support

Some, like the Joyce Foundation, will address legislative issues directly. The California Endowment focuses on administrative policy changes such as those in the school discipline and restorative justice arenas. Some foundations sit on local boards that help govern the implementation of a city's comprehensive violence prevention plan, giving advice, making connections and sometimes providing funding. Foundation presence often legitimizes a city's efforts. This can lead to vital connections with other leaders such as those in the medical, research, and corporate arenas.


Below is a list of suggested strategies that positively impact youth violence. Each strategy opens a broad array of proven and promising programs.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Family support and engagement
  • Early childhood education
  • Neighborhood improvement of schools
  • Recreation
  • Teen involvement
  • Youth employment and career pathways

Intervention Strategies:

  • School-to-work transition
  • Alternative schools
  • Restorative justice
  • Mentoring
  • Peacekeeper patrols
  • Street outreach and interrupter resources
  • Neighborhood mobilization (following a shooting)
  • Drug abuse counseling/trauma-based care


  • Police athletic league
  • Communication equipment for citizen volunteers
  • Citizen academies
  • Support for community officers
  • Ceasefire

Reentry Strategies:

  • Mentoring
  • In-prison transition
  • Housing assistance
  • Mental health, trauma, and drug counseling
  • Job training
  • Transitional employment
  • Support groups


Badeau, Sue. 2012. “Philanthropic Engagement with Community Youth Violence Prevention Initiatives.” Making the Link, Issue 2. Washington, D.C.: Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families. Retrieved from (PDF, 6 pages)