Giving to one’s local community is not a new concept. People tend to give to places and causes they have a strong connection to, often in the places where they live and work, motivated by gratitude for opportunities they have enjoyed or out of eagerness to improve the quality of life in their community. Less obvious, however, is the notion that local giving can also be a strategic choice. Indeed, many of the philanthropists we interviewed who choose to focus on giving to their community do so because of a personal connection, but also because they see an opportunity to be deliberate about achieving a certain set of results. As George Kaiser says about his own philanthropy (which focuses on his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma), being in the same community makes it easier to identify local problems, prioritize reasonable solutions and choose the people who can implement those solutions, and make course corrections. "We can perfect our response,” he says.
Local philanthropy is attractive, from a personal and strategic lens, our interviewees report, because it puts them in a unique position to convene stakeholders and help strengthen the ties among institutions with shared interests. This role gives these philanthropists an intimate view of their community which helps them to identify the most important issues to tackle and the best solutions, people, and organizations to address them. A number of our interviewees are also engaging in local collaborations; in some instances with community foundations and increasingly with other groups that may involve government, business, and nonprofits. Local philanthropy is also attractive to the philanthropists we interviewed because it allows them to use their time, influence, and deep knowledge of and connections to their communities. Some even give locally with an eye towards national replication—working to bring proven programs to their community, or taking proven programs in their community and scaling them nationally.
Whether a philanthropist’s rationale for giving locally is personal, strategic, or both, these local givers benefit from the opportunity to work in close proximity to the leaders and organizations in which they invest.