Community Philanthropy for Student Success

College Futures Foundation


As part of its strategic pivot from directly providing scholarships to effecting systems change, College Futures Foundation embarked on a five-year initiative partnering with community foundations across California. As local philanthropic leaders, each would aim to increase college-going opportunity toward more equitable attainment in their regions. At the time, the Community Philanthropy Initiative (CPI) for student success was the largest, most ambitious investment of its kind for College Futures. Alongside technical assistance providers supporting data use, organizational development and scholarship management, Williams Group was invited to build communications capacity and guide effective communications throughout the initiative.

Initiative goals
Initiative goals
Initiative goals


Wg designed and facilitated a kickoff workshop focused on communications planning and capacity-building. Prepared with inputs from community foundation participants, we created a framework and menu of potential communication supports designed to meet their needs and interests. Over the initiative’s course, Wg helped community foundations develop strategies, messaging, infographics and other tools to maximize outreach and engagement with donors. We also developed an online learning platform to facilitate cross-cohort collaboration and sharing, and helped design and present communication-focused sessions at initiative convenings.


All participating community foundations are now equipped with messaging and communications kits that reflect their emphasis on strategic, needs-based scholarships. They have each developed their own presentations and handouts with these resources and are using them to successfully conduct donor outreach and cultivation. At the conclusion of the initiative, Wg was pleased to develop a summary of the community foundations’ experience—and the results of an initiative that surpassed expectations. Over the course of five years, the cohort was reaching more students with financial need, reducing a gender gap among scholarship recipients, and consistently awarding scholarships to a student body more reflective of the makeup of their communities. What’s more, the foundations grew as leaders with increased capacity for using data, reaching and connecting people meaningfully, and effecting change. Lessons from CPI continue to shape College Futures Foundation strategy and its most recent ventures in regional leadership and equity in higher education.