The board and staff at the Durfee Foundation hope that the Foundation’s impact will not be measured solely by the amount of money that it gives away. Just as important, we believe, is the way that we do our work and what we can bring to our community in addition to our grant dollars. Following are some examples of how we work as an expression of the Foundation’s values.
“We’re always asking ourselves: Is there anything we could be doing differently? Is there anything we could be doing better? Thinking about what’s missing keeps us on our toes.” — Halina Avery, Durfee Foundation Trustee
- Peer Review
- Creating and Nurturing Networks
- Continuous Learning
- Mentor Relationships
- Small but Nimble
Many of our grant programs have a robust alumni group, and Durfee sees the group’s knowledge and expertise as an invaluable resource. We value our alumni for their on-the-ground perspective as current leaders and recent participants in Durfee programs. Consequently, most Durfee award programs involve grant recipients and community members in the application review process.
Durfee likes to bring people together! Many of our grant programs are built around gatherings. We find immense value in group discussions, especially in a city as geographically challenged as Los Angeles. We like to spark dialogues between people who have never met but should, provide a reason for people who already know one another to deepen their connections, and introduce folks who might otherwise not have met because they work in different fields.
Creating and Nurturing Networks
Convenings are often the first step towards creating a network. Over the years, Durfee alumni have gathered regularly for lunches, themed discussions, and overnight retreats. The relationships among Durfee Fellows deepen with the passing years, nurtured by walks on the shore and times spent together over meals. Members of the network turn to one another when seeking advice on sticky questions, announcing opportunities, or furthering the work of their organizations through new connections.
Over time, Durfee hopes to build a cross-sector platform of leaders who are engaged in seeking answers to some of the difficult problems facing Los Angeles. We believe that the City’s most pressing problems – in affordable housing, transportation, education, jobs creation, environmental sustainability and cultural engagement – are inter-related, and can only be solved by integrated solutions.
Most of Durfee’s programs have evolved because of direct feedback from grant recipients. When some recipients of the Sabbatical grant expressed interest in securing time and resources to delve deeply into complex problems in their field, for example, Durfee responded by creating the Stanton Fellowships. In this way, Durfee looks to its grant recipients as working partners in determining how best to shape its future programs of support.
While we also engage in more conventional forms of evaluation, we enjoy free-ranging discussions with others to discern our approach. When we are scrutinizing a program or looking to branch into a new direction, we often turn to former grant recipients and other thought leaders and ask them, “What would you do if you were in our shoes?”
At Durfee. we see the value of connecting people who have been down a path with those who are about to embark on a similar journey. Whether it’s the pairing of an emerging leader with a seasoned leader, or a buddy system connecting peers across sectors, we try to foster informal working relationships among colleagues in our grant programs.
Small but Nimble
Compared to many other foundations, the Durfee Foundation’s assets are modest. We aspire to have an outsized impact with our grant dollars by being aware, responsive and nimble. With only three staff members, there is little opportunity for categories of work to become isolated in silos. We view everything as connected.
We answer our phones whenever we can, and strive to return calls and other communications promptly. We like it when prospective applicants call us with questions before applying, and we appreciate the opportunity to discuss our grant decisions with those who want to learn more.