How do you fight illiteracy in Appalachia or hunger in Somalia if you’ve never even visited these places? How do you promptly support hurricane relief in the Carolinas when there isn’t time to survey the damage and determine where aid is most urgently required? How do you foster local school reform when it’s not your area of expertise?
You don’t need to hire a full staff of program experts to help you tackle obstacles of distance, language and unfamiliarity. In most cases, all you really need is an appointed agent—someone who has close knowledge and strong connections in a particular area of need and who can serve as your “boots on the ground.” A private foundation can ‘deputize’ individuals to represent its interests, seeking out hard-to find opportunities and providing funding on the spot.