Championing Imaginative Philanthropy

Championing Imaginative Philanthropy

Posted on December 29, 2014 by The Patterson Foundation

Catalyzing innovative approaches within philanthropy requires leadership, vision and creative execution. As president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, Debra Jacobs employs all three to create new realities throughout Southwest Florida and beyond. Debra recently shared insights from her career that drive The Patterson Foundation to fulfill its promise and honor its founding principles.

Everyone Can Be a Philanthropist

Throughout my life I’ve witnessed the many ways people exercise their desire to give back through time, talent or treasure. If you need proof that this region is generous, all you need to do is look to The Giving Partner Giving Challenge. We inspired generosity during the 2014 challenge by matching up to $450,000 in new or increased donations. In 24 hours, more than 18,700 individual gifts were made resulting in $3.1 million raised for nonprofits in our region.

Be Intrepid

I’m fortunate that The Patterson Foundation was set up to do what others can’t, won’t or aren’t doing. The flexibility, opportunity and responsibility handed down to us from our benefactor, Dorothy Patterson, enables us to be intrepid in our work and take smart risks by supporting collaborative partnerships.

Share the Cookies in the Jar

What good are promising practices and creative ideas if they aren’t shared? Since I started my career in philanthropy, I’ve pushed for The Patterson Foundation to be a leader in sharing what we’re learning — the good and the challenging. In fact, each one of our initiative consultants blog to share lessons learned on a regular basis.

Connective Tissue

So much can be gained by stepping outside of silos. Rather than grant cycles, we at The Patterson Foundation choose partners through the connections we’ve made locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. On a leadership level, I build connective tissue by reaching out to new people on Twitter and just celebrated sending my 4,000th tweet! Digital media is making our world smaller and more accessible – I encourage all leaders to connect in this way.

Purposeful Partnerships

As The Patterson Foundation approaches five years of developing partnerships for impact in this region and beyond, we know that to be successful there must be alignment of leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity and culture. How did we find that out? Through the kind of partnering that delivers strategic and tactical expertise beyond the check. We call it playing in the sandbox together.

Leverage for Impact

Since 2010, 70 percent of The Patterson Foundation’s funds have stayed local. This includes more than $14 million raised through matching challenges benefiting our region. Beyond the match, leveraging for impact means we help partners build more organizational muscle in addition to financial resources.

The Greater Good

Claire Gaudiani’s book "The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism" is something that influenced me. The stories about early philanthropists, such as Julius Rosenwald, the founder of Sears, who gave to those like him and to those very different from him, often with matching donations. He never underestimated how people would step up for a need that spoke to their passions. More than 5,000 “Rosenwald” schools and YMCAs were built in African-American communities, thanks to his vision and challenges, all with contributions from local residents.

Vision and the Details

When The Patterson Foundation created the concept for Patriot Plaza, the new 2,800-seat amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery, it was intended to honor the Patterson family’s military history and the service of all of our nation’s veterans and their families. Each detail, from the architects to the craftsmen to the national artists crafting commissioned pieces, was rooted in the belief that Patriot Plaza is not only created for the present but also for future generations.


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