This fall, I had the pleasure of being part of the Advancing Mission Thrivability (AMT) consulting teams with Mike Oxman and Larry Clark of No Margin, No Mission. AMT is a new endeavor of The Patterson Foundation, born from the challenges highlighted by COVID-19. While the Labinars and Webversations were highly engaging, I relished the opportunity to work with two of the Super Six groups who advanced to a series of five consulting sessions focused on optimizing the decision-making process at the intersection of margin and mission.

Mike and I worked with the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, while Larry and I focused on Manatee County Habitat for Humanity. The organizations have vastly different missions, but both are pillars of Manatee County. After the introductory calls, it was clear that the organizations had very different goals for the consulting process. No problem! Part of the beauty of AMT, and working with Mike and Larry, is that the sessions are not prescriptive but rather designed to meet organizations where they are and go from there. I think of it like therapy; we all need it (especially in 2020) but for different purposes!

For the Bishop, their team had met throughout the pandemic to brainstorm new ways to leverage their expertise. Being a unique offering in the area but badly impacted by the COVID-19 shutdowns, their team realized that they had the tools to create new offerings and had been doing so. They wanted outside help to look at the institutional level at how best to move forward. In their own words, they had highly skilled "doers" and needed to focus on high-level strategy conversations. AMT offered that opportunity (at no cost to them!).

At Manatee Habitat, Larry and I spent the first two sessions listening to the different programs they offered and keeping an eye out for common themes—big, organization-wide items that could positively shift to better support every program. This was, as you might imagine, a time-consuming process. However, the organization found it illuminated common themes other than what they assumed would emerge as priority. Rather than focusing on the programmatic level, together, we discovered that every aspect of their programs could benefit from a deep dive into shoring up the fund development plan. Before the last AMT meeting, fundraising consultant extraordinaire Sara Leonard was contracted to help carry the momentum gained during AMT forward.

It's worth noting that of the six organizations that went through the AMT process, half had already engaged with Mike and Larry through Margin and Mission Ignition (MMI). Advancing Mission Thrivability is not the same (other than the dazzling consulting talent) in almost any way. MMI offers a 30-month engagement with business planning, capital raise, and implementation phases. AMT offers a high impact, short timeline engagement to evaluate where on the margin/mission matrix your organization can shift things around to optimize decision making to maximize both margin and mission. As one participant described, "it can be grueling because it requires the hard work of self-evaluation." However, as the word cloud depicts, the experience is also energizing, enlightening, powerful, robust, motivating, and fun.

I, for one, can't wait to see what this first group of six will accomplish and look forward to our next AMT cohort!

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