From the moment she first learned about NeighborLink, Jen Pickard was intrigued. At first, she thought she had stumbled across a new organization, but digging deeper into the pages of the grant gave her a sort of epiphany.
“I saw that they weren’t new at all. They had been around since 2003, and they were looking to grow their impact, not start it,” says Pickard. “When I looked at the simple version of what they do—matching volunteers with homeowners in need— it just made so much sense, and this was something we knew we could really get on board with.”
As an organization that doesn’t discriminate its funding according to mission or focus, M.E. Raker looks instead at an organization’s diversity of funding, its willingness to collaborate with like-minded organizations, its programming, and its utilization of volunteers.
And if those are the qualifiers of an organization’s success, then it’s easy to see why NeighborLink received an M.E. Raker grant in 2016. Relying on volunteers is the cornerstone of its entire mission.
More Than Outcomes
Recognizing that more and more funders are emphasizing accountability and outcomes, the M.E. Raker Foundation strives to balance an grantee’s needs with the foundation’s expectations. Too often, Pickard says, an organization in desperate need of funding winds up shifting its mission. It’s a primary reason why M.E. Raker has come to believe that if they can help reduce an organization’s fiscal pressures, then maybe that will free up resources to focus on other pressing concerns, like mission drift, leadership succession and sustainability. “Needs and outcomes are great things,” she says. “But a funder’s expectations should never cause an organization to lose sight of its original purpose and mission.”
Beyond those concerns, M.E. Raker is driven by a central question of sustainability. “We want to make a wise investment,” says Pickard. “One of our primary questions is, ‘If we don’t fund the project, will it happen without us?’ We want to make sure the initiatives we support are going to be here 5, 10, 20 years from now. Our directors are looking to give to lasting things.”