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The secret sauce in philanthropy? Collaboration.

January 3, 2021

This year has proven that no single donor can solve pressing problems alone.

Note: this originally appeared in print and online in The Dallas Morning News on January 3, 2021 as part of the Dallas Morning News editorial board’s annual Texan of the Year recognitions.

When I think about what matters most in working to achieve our vision of thriving communities for all, it’s recognizing that this vision is only possible through deep and broad collaboration, relationships, partnerships and trust.

North Texas is recognized nationally as a giving community. In 2017, the same year that I joined Communities Foundation of Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth was named one of the top 10 giving cities in America by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Our region ranks in the top two in the U.S. of cities with populations of more than 2 million by percentage of income given to charity, with a giving ratio of almost 4% of total adjusted gross income. Further, our region boasts the largest community-wide day of giving in the nation through CFT’s North Texas Giving Day, which has continued to break its own record each year.

What drives the people in our region to continually be so generous? I might argue that it has a lot to do with what I just mentioned: trust, relationships, partnership and collaboration. It is love for community.

Now, as we experience our most challenging time in recent history, our community continues to respond with record levels of generosity. For example, individuals, families and businesses who have donor-advised funds at our foundation have been especially generous, collectively giving more than $41 million to support nonprofits this year, an increase of 80% over a year ago. This surge in giving is part of a broader trend nationally as we all step up to urgently address pressing needs.

In the most challenging times, we found a breakthrough that guided our ability to learn, adapt and respond in an accelerated way. The secret is working together in partnership.

Since March, CFT and our many collaborative partners have mobilized more than $175 million for nonprofits serving those desperately in need. These efforts include North Texas CaresNorth Texas Giving Day, North Texas Giving Tuesday Now, and the creation of nine different COVID-19 related relief funds, together with the generosity of our donor-advised fund holders. The response has been extraordinary, with working families, local businesses, the corporations and generous individuals all in alignment toward helping others face a crisis. The pandemic has proven that if any of us were to act alone, our efforts would have only a fraction of the impact.

The pandemic has also worsened the racial and economic disparities for students and families across the country. Better education is a powerful tool to change this future. Through CFT’s Educate Texas initiative, we’ve been working with partners around the state to address the digital divide by providing access to high-quality broadband for students and to provide resources to educators through the newly created Texas Learning Exchange for safe, effective teaching in this new environment.

We’ve been inspired by the swift innovation from our business sector partners. The Get Shift Done Fund connected displaced hospitality hourly workers to nonprofits serving the supply chain for donated food. The effort was so successful, Get Shift Done was expanded with 10 additional regions across the country. Also, the Revive Dallas Small Business Relief Fund and its 0% interest forgivable loans served scores of small organizations, with an emphasis on supporting minority- and women-owned businesses.

We serve as a conduit to connect people and ideas into action, and I believe this level of innovation and collaboration across organizations can accelerate our progress toward a better community for all. We are proud to be the largest community foundation in Texas and one of the largest in the nation. Still, the real metric in our philanthropic impact is the depth and breadth of our collaborative relationships. Financial investment of course matters, but the human element is what creates positive, lasting change.

We are striving to build this collective alignment much more broadly across the community as we have learned there is a limit to what any one person or organization can achieve alone. Working together is the template to accelerate progress toward thriving North Texas communities for all.

Dave Scullin is chief executive of Communities Foundation of Texas. He wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News.

Note: this originally appeared in print and online in The Dallas Morning News on January 3, 2021 as part of the Dallas Morning News editorial board’s annual Texan of the Year recognitions. Find the full project, with the runners up and the 2020 Texan of the Year at

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