October 21, 2019

Donor Collaboration: How NPT Philanthropists are Working Together to Increase Impact

Author Helen Davis Picher, AVP of Philanthropic Services

Whether tackling student debt or rebuilding urban community spaces, private and public funders are working with National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) to find creative solutions to some of today’s most complex social problems.

Donor collaboratives have been around for more than a century, taking the form of community foundations, immigrant aid societies and giving circles. But in recent years, interest has grown as more funders realize that individual efforts aren’t enough to address the biggest challenges facing society. By pooling funds and sharing their expertise, philanthropists and other funders can expand their reach and increase their impact. Donor collaboratives can also be more efficient, reducing overhead and administrative tasks.

Here are two innovative public-private partnerships facilitated by NPT:

Rebuild Philadelphia: Investing in the city’s youth and neighborhoods

By renovating and transforming public parks, libraries and recreation centers, Philadelphia’s “Rebuilding Community Infrastructure Initiative” invests in the city’s youth and neighborhoods. Rebuild, as it is known, empowers local communities to determine the changes to these public spaces and promotes economic opportunity by contracting with diverse local businesses. Since the initiative’s inception, 64 projects have been approved for investment.

The primary source of funding for Rebuild is bonds made possible by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax. Individual philanthropists and foundations, meanwhile, collaborate through the “Rebuild Fund” established at NPT by the William Penn Foundation (WPF), which has made a commitment of up to $100 million for the project.

Donors who wish to participate can make contributions for as little as $1,500 to the Rebuild Fund, and the WPF will match $1 for every $2 given. Although contributions to the fund must be unrestricted, donors can ask the WPF to recommend grants to specific projects. All fees related to the advised fund are covered by the WPF, allowing 100% of contributions to go directly to the project.

Keystone Scholars: Investing in the future of every Pennsylvania baby

Children who have even small amounts of education savings at birth are three times more likely to enroll in an educational or training program after high school.

Pennsylvania has the second highest student debt in the nation—$37,061 on average, according to the Project on Student Debt of the Institute for College Access & Success. (Connecticut, at $38,669, ranks first.) To encourage early savings and mitigate debt for future generations, the Neubauer Family Foundation, together with the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, set up an advised fund with NPT to work with other donors to fund an innovative new program—Keystone Scholars—introduced by State Treasurer Joe Torsella.

Under the new program, new and expecting parents register online for an account with the Pennsylvania 529 College and Career Savings Program. The Pennsylvania Treasury Department then invests $100 in the state’s Guaranteed Savings Plan for the baby’s higher education expenses, which includes college and vocational school. As of August 2019, 43,000 families were participating in the program.

Initiated in 2018 in six demonstration counties, Keystone Scholars was first funded with $2.25 million in private contributions, including the Neubauer Family Foundation’s original $250,000 gift. In 2019, the program expanded statewide and is now being funded privately and through the investment surplus of the PA 529 plan.

Funders hope that Keystone Scholars will encourage families to start saving earlier and inspire more students to pursue higher education. Research shows that children who have even small amounts of education savings at birth are three times more likely to enroll in an educational or training program after high school and are four times more likely to graduate.

For more information about NPT’s collaborative giving vehicles and the strategic guidance we offer or to learn how to make a contribution to the Rebuild or Keystone Scholars funds, please contact us at philanthropicservices@nptrust.org or by calling (888) 878-7900.


Helen Davis Picher is National Philanthropic Trust’s Associate Vice President of Philanthropic Services. She leads grantmaking for NPT’s U.K. affiliate NPT Transatlantic and, in both the U.S. and the U.K., she provides philanthropic services to donors and administers special charitable giving vehicles.

NPT does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and shall not be relied upon as, legal or tax advice. The applicability of information contained here may vary depending on individual circumstances.

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