Why we're supporting nonprofits affected by the clawback

Why we're supporting nonprofits affected by the clawback

Posted on October 21, 2013 by Michael Corley

The Patterson Foundation recently announced it is supporting four nonprofit organizations required to return funds as a result of the clawback provision of the Nadel Ponzi scheme settlement. While each organization works on its own timeline to recover, our match opportunity -- up to $640,000 for the group -- is about half of what is needed to reimburse the organizations.

On the surface, this may appear to be a simple and easy gesture, but TPF's motivation for doing this is so much deeper.

The Patterson Foundation's interest in this situation originated when the settlements were announced in August, and our CEO recognized that the funds would have to come from programmatic and/or operating funds.  (Very few, if any nonprofit organizations, keep a bucket of reserves for unexpected situations like this.).

While the dollar amounts varied among organizations, each amount was significant and potentially devastating to the beneficiaries of the services provided by these groups. In other words, the people who would suffer the most would be those who needed the services the most...and this would have been disastrous to them.

To learn how each organization was positioned to repay the funds, TPF met with each individually to listen, learn and determine if a collaborative approach could be crafted.  (There was no obligation for any organization to participate, and at least one organization chose not to do so.)

Each of the four groups was forthright and thoughtful in sharing its story and in exploring a collaborative, yet individually unique approach.  As a result, we learned quite a bit about the impact of the settlement and the potential damage which could impact our community members.

After meeting with each group individually, we identified three opportunities for aligning with The Patterson Foundation's beliefs and the needs:

1) What can or should be learned from this experience?

2) How can we share these "learnings" with other nonprofit boards, donors and leadership teams?

3) How can the financial impact of the settlement be minimized so the beneficiaries of the programs would not be impacted?

With this information, we asked the four organizations to meet as a group.  At the end of the discussion, it was evident that each group would need to approach fundraising individually, but there was value in supporting an aligned and collaborative effort.

As the process evolved, TPF realized that its contribution should be a combination of money, fundraising credibility, governance expertise, and leveraging strategic communications to support each of these.

The 1:1 match by TPF represents our financial support and desire to make the organizations "whole" subsequent to this disastrous situation.  The public announcement of our involvement and of our match positions the fund development efforts for each organization. (Through our work, we've found that 1:1 matches are highly effective)

Through our discussions with the organizations and by engaging governance consulting advice, we are learning how boards can better position themselves to limit risk and prepare for the unexpected.

And finally, the strategic approach to communications, driven by the expertise of MagnifyGood, including a unified press release, common talking points, and responding to a crisis situation (both internally and externally) is  proving to be learning fodder for all involved.

We are almost two weeks past the announcement of this collaboration, and we continue to work as a group to learn, share, fundraise, and uplift our organizations.  So far, we have learned that disparate groups can work collaboratively while maintaining uniqueness, that there is value in sharing perspectives, that strategic communications influences community perception, and appropriate board governance can augment operational effectiveness.

Credit must be given to Jewish Family & Children Services, Girls, Inc., Diocese of Venice in Florida, and Sarasota Opera -- who are all committed to working together to learn, share and excel while fundraising independently to erase the settlement.

The Patterson Foundation, Girls Inc., Jewish Family & Children Service Sarasota-Manatee, Sarasota Opera, Diocese of Venice, communication, governance



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