A white woman and a black woman smile and talk together over a cocktail table
Participants network at the opening reception of the 2023 Annual Meeting in Rwanda

Playing Cupid: Curated Connections & Beyond

Segal Family Foundation
4 min readFeb 5, 2024


By Sylvia K. Ilahuka, Communications Officer

Segal Family Foundation’s work can be categorized into three areas: investing, connecting, and advising. While investing (i.e. grantmaking and impact investing) may be the more outwardly obvious of our roles and advising one that we are still growing into (shoutout to our Equitable Giving team), we are also very good at linking our grantee partners to each other and to peer funders. We are big on building community and fostering collaboration — it is, after all, embedded in our foundation’s history and values. So, in the spirit of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, we are sharing a bit about how we play matchmaker and some of the beautiful things that have sprung up as a result.

Many of the attendees at our 2023 Annual Meeting experienced our curated connections: introductory pairings made on the basis of a common issue area or simply a shared interest that could spark conversation. The concept has existed for as long as Segal Family Foundation has. In the beginning, when our portfolio was smaller and our Annual Meetings were a handful of people sitting around a table, it was easier to suggest who should meet who. As our community has grown, it takes a bit more thinking and planning. The end goal isn’t always funding; it can be for mutual learning and support (as expressed by the partners who participated in a learning visit to Malawi in 2022), mentorship (between our Luminary Circle and partners earlier in the journey), or just individuals who our team thinks would hit it off. To do this effectively calls for a deep knowledge of our partners, which we have gained through trust-based relationships cultivated from day one.

Connecting during sessions at the 2023 Annual Meeting

At large gatherings like our Annual Meeting where the dynamic can sometimes feel transactional, having pre-arranged networking helps add a human touch to the cycle of attempting to strike up conversations with strangers. Equitable Giving Officer Ellie Neilson said matchmaking is a lot of fun because there are opportunities to connect people who should get to know each other. The introductions that we’ve made of this sort have resulted in more than 271 funders (to date) making grants to our partners. This network is vast, including the likes of Azurit Foundation, Dovetail Impact Foundation, Livelihood Impact Fund, Comic Relief, and Mastercard Foundation.

With any blind date, there’s always a chance that either party might decline or that the encounter might not go well. A true match generally takes multiple points of connection over time. One of our grantee partners said of the connection spaces created at our Annual Meeting, “You were spot-on in your advice to make the most of networking. I met with 20+ representatives of other NGOs and made some good friends in the networking tent. As always, it’s all about relationships.”

An African man and an African woman pose for a selfie together
Making friends at the 2023 Annual Meeting in Kigali

These connections even give rise to collaborative projects, such as the animated short film Fidi that was produced by our grantee partners Tai Tanzania, Lukiza Autism Foundation, and Gabriella Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. Tai founder Ian Tarimo shared that he had initially been looking for partners to promote the wellbeing and rights of people living with disabilities. Segal Family Foundation’s portfolio is home to several disability-oriented organizations, so he asked Senior Equitable Giving Manager Beatrice Onyango for introductions and she made several — including to Gabriella Centre. While in New York for the 2022 African Visionary Fellows gathering, Tarimo and Gabriella founder Brenda Shuma met in person and agreed to collaborate. Last year, they secured funding to produce a Kiswahili language animation about autism in collaboration with Lukiza and other partners. The short film is a significant contribution to the digital edutainment space, creating visibility and relatability for the autism community. “​​I am glad a whole animation came out of it,” Onyango says of the connection. Well, we want to see even more fruits born of our networks — so go ahead and swipe right on our partners! (Funders, if you are looking for a match, ask equitablegiving@segalfamilyfoundation.org.)



Segal Family Foundation

Social impact funder and advisor building a network of visionary local leaders and global donors to advance positive change in Africa