Overall, the Foundation staff and the Tauck family are held in high regard by those with whom they partner. In interviews for this case study, TFF investees and other close collaborators shared that they experience the Foundation as: “humble; authentic; relationship focused; empathetic; gracious; available; proactive; responsive; transparent; dedicated; improvement focused; opportunistic; resourceful; excellent listeners; candid; rigorous; exacting; precise; consistent; highly organized; effective; collaborative; transformative; and, true partners in every sense.”

Commenting on the oft perceived power imbalance between funders and grantees, investees note that when TFF joins community gatherings: “people don’t feel strange that the funders are in the room–that would not be the case with most other funders, it would make people feel uncomfortable. TFF staff have their own relationships within the community and are very close to the work.” Investees also reported comfort and familiarity with the TFF staff: “I can be earnest and less formal than I feel I need to be with other funders–they truly partner with you. It feels like they’re grassroots and leading a movement” and “we could let them in on our shortcomings and were never afraid to be honest. They’re not punitive.”

Investees perceive TFF as providing “immeasurable” support that goes far beyond money, the impact of which “can’t be overstated.” Specifically appreciated are: thought partnership on strategic issues; making connections to other funders and field expertise; and, monthly ‘Resource Roundup’ emails which curate SEL and equity-focused learning opportunities. Investees describe TFF staff as “assets” to their own organizations and to the Bridgeport community.

Importantly, TFF has helped Bridgeport funders and community-based organizations work in less siloed ways. Community members also assert that several Foundations gained the confidence to invest in Bridgeport because of TFF’s belief in the city’s nonprofits and schools, backed up by evidence of investee progress showcased by the Foundation.

Interviewees were unaware of another funding organization with such a steady focus on Bridgeport education, yet several also expressed concern that TFF might eventually end its investment in the city. If that were to happen, one investee noted, it would be another example–of which they asserted there have been many–of funders abandoning a predominantly Black and Latinx community in what some may perceive as the middle of the work. Another investee explained that responding to the impacts of the pandemic has limited their organization’s bandwidth to begin planning to replace TFF’s funding, should it end when the TFF grant cycle concludes in 2023. That investee explained that even without the compounding challenges of the pandemic and related staff turnover, education change “is a slow and difficult process. This is a marathon and not a sprint.”

“They are real partners – not micromanagers. Some Foundations have a mission and pick grantees and then try to fit the grantee into their mission. TFF does due diligence to select people who are vision aligned and then they trust you to do the work.”

“The Tauck Family Foundation has been so much more than a ``funding source`` to us. TFF has helped our program grow into who we are, and who our students need us to be. As a teacher 7 years ago, I took notice of the care and dedication TFF gave to the program - tours, focus groups, and attending professional development are not commonplace for donors and foundations – they reflect a deeper understanding of the work we do for our students and families.”

“Honestly, when I first saw TFF’s planning and reporting requirements, I thought these are very, very lengthy detailed requirements. But the iCAT, capacity building planning, and quarterly meetings allowed me to ask questions about my own organization I didn’t even know to ask . . . I initially thought it was hoop jumping . . . but they are thorough and they really use the information they ask for to help us. They came back and said, ‘it sounds like you need more support.’ So, it was time well spent for us.”

“They believed in me as a leader and invested in our ideas.”