Q&A with MassMutual Foundation

A Funder’s Perspective on SIF’s Track Partnership Model

Social Issue Track Partnership is the unique funding model behind the Social Innovation Forum’s Accelerator program. Each year, Track Partners work with the SIF team to define a topical area of focus, evaluate applications, and ultimately select an organization to participate in SIF’s 24-month capacity-building program.

We recently touched base with the team from MassMutual Foundation – a five-time Track Partner – for a Q&A on their experience working with SIF over the years.

What led you to become involved with the Social Innovation Forum? 

We were introduced to SIF through one of our peer funders – as we looked to evolve our grant practice to meet a new strategic plan, the SIF team was one we were told that we “had to meet!” We were navigating freshly re-focused funding areas and expanding our giving in Boston. The partnership with SIF presented such a wonderful way for us to meet and engage with community organizations aligned with our mission. The first track we funded in 2017 was such a great experience that we’ve been engaged ever since!

We’ve also leveraged our track sponsorship to support development of members across our team. For those with less experience in grantmaking, or whose roles don’t always present direct exposure to our community partners, participating in the process provides important context and learning from a “best in class” organization such as SIF.

Can you share the story of your track partnership experience with SIF?

After several years of focusing on one of our main strategic pillars of expanding social capital with our track topic, last year we shifted our topic to our broader strategic focus of building financial resilience, which is inclusive of programs focused on a range of outcomes, including increased employment and income, increased savings, debt reduction, building credit, and access to affordable financial products. Our selected track Innovator, Just A Start’s Financial Empowerment Collaborative, is an incredible suite of programs that includes financial coaching, free tax prep, and a cohort based matched savings program.

As a track funder, we were able to participate in different stages of the applicant review process alongside an incredible group of issue experts and Boston area nonprofit leaders that provided us with invaluable insights into applicants’ strengths and potential areas for growth. We simultaneously benefitted from getting to know this group of experts and the work that their respective organizations are doing. As an example of the value of these relationships, we often point to Union Capital (formerly Union Capital Boston) who didn’t end up being selected as our track Innovator a few years back but has now become a multi-year grantee of ours who has even expanded their programming to Springfield!

What do you think people should know about SIF's track partnership model?

People should know that there are various ways that a Track Partner can choose to engage with SIF during the selection process and then during the Innovator cohort experience. You can be as hands-on (or off) as fits your needs and availability and you will have every chance to get to know your track’s selected Innovator and all the other Innovators during their engagement with SIF. 

Do you have any advice for people who may be considering becoming social issue track funding partners to SIF?

To put it plainly...do it! There’s a reason that we’ve been a funding partner for so many years. The exposure to the large number of incredible organizations, programs, and community leaders that this model offers is invaluable to anyone interested in learning about and building relationships with those on the front lines of social impact in the Boston area.

To date MassMutual Foundation has partnered with SIF on five Social Issue Tracks on topics related to social capital and financial resiliency. Thanks to MassMutual’s support, SIF has provided important capacity building services to accelerate the work of five local organizations: ACT Lawrence; Boston HERC (Higher Education Resource Center); Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition; GenUnity; and Just A Start's Financial Empowerment Collaborative. They are returning again next year as a 2024-2025 Track Partner. 

Interested in Becoming a Track Partner?

SIF track partners represent a wide range of corporations, foundations, and individual donors who are interested in supporting the work of grassroots nonprofits in Eastern Massachusetts. To join the more than 90 Track Partners who’ve worked with SIF to date, reach out to Becca Mamlet, Development Operations Coordinator, at bmamlet@socialinnovationforum.org. More information can also be found here