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Grantmaking Report Reveals Lessons for the Field
posted 01.28.2013

By ASA Staff

The Atlantic Philanthropies recently released a report detailing their 10-year Older Adult Civic Engagement fund-granting program, including six valuable lessons learned in the process.

Between 2001 and 2010, The Atlantic Philanthropies dispensed $120 million in grants to promote greater opportunity for continued work, learning and volunteering among U.S. elders. The program, called Civic Engagement of Older Adults, was based on the premise that people are likely to enjoy healthier and more satisfying lives after age 60 if they are involved in purposeful activity and remain connected to others.

The Atlantic Philanthropies invested in grantees working on program models that expanded opportunities for elder volunteerism, employment and lifelong learning; promoted a more accurate and supportive public perception of elders; galvanized the civic engagement field with outstanding leadership; mobilized more funding; and advocated for improvements in public policy to expand opportunities for elder Americans to work, learn and volunteer.

ASA was proud to be a grantee in the category of strengthening leadership, with funding that went toward the Aging in America Conference. ASA continues to share best practices for civic engagement at the conference (to be held this year from March 12−16 in Chicago), as well as through our ongoing Engaged Age column in Aging Today

Lessons Learned

The report also divulges six lessons that should be taken to heart by many in the field, and are especially meaningful, as The Atlantic Philanthropies has ended its work with civic engagement, in preparation for 2016 end to grantmaking.

Briefly some crucial lessons learned were that this stream of grants helped to build credibility for the field of aging and achieved most of its goals, including that of making aging part of a national discussion; another lesson was that there is a dire need for prominent national leaders in aging to sustain momentum in the field; and that the abruptness of Atlantic’s departure from grantmaking provided few opportunities for orderly transitions for those receiving funding.

But the biggest lesson the organization says it learned is that grantmaking in aging services raised fundamental new questions about later life in post-2008 (recessionary) America, among them, how and when Americans will be able to retire; how income and healthcare will be provided for; and what unexpected demands may await retirees and the nation at large.

Some of The Atlantic Philanthropies’ grantees remain challenged by the weak economy. According to the report, the ongoing but improving recession will not necessarily undermine the principles of civic engagement, but may shift emphasis, demand a different mix of opportunities and call for continued innovation, experimentation and leadership to meet the needs of the generation just beginning to retire.

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