beyEditor's Note: “Beyond the Check: The Patterson Foundation’s Approach to Innovative Philanthropy” was a one-credit course offered by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy designed to dive deep into TPF with its president and CEO Debra Jacobs.

An impactful leadership-development experience based on TPF's approach, the course explored network building, values-driven work, creating value beyond the check, systems thinking, the balance between foundation leadership and community leadership, and the importance of communication.

Assignments and discussions challenged participants to think about what's possible in philanthropy when one looks beyond how things have always been done. The value-heavy, six-week journey through life in a private foundation featured Zoom sessions with Debra Jacobs, TPF Fellow Hannah Saeger Karnei, and TPF consultant Donna Puhalovich.

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Receiving the invitation from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s (IU LFSOP) Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Patrick Rooney, to teach a one-credit course during the 2020-2021 Intersession affirmed The Patterson Foundation’s aspiration of Advancing Philanthropic Leadership. TPF’s relationship with IU LFSOP has blossomed since October 2018, when we created a partnership resulting in the Fellows Program.

Developing and teaching a college course opened my eyes to the rigor involved and a whole new vocabulary…..such as synchronous learning and pracademic. Thanks to TPF’s Joni Steinberg, helping with “what needs to happen,” and her decades of being a college professor, and Hannah Saeger Karnei and Donna Puhalovich agreeing to be co-instructors, I was off to a super start. Hannah focused on creating the syllabus, assignments, and background materials. Donna was the master of logistics and student support. Yes, they were superstars from start to finish, and together we became the TPF Trio.

With only six classes, there was no shortage of topics to provide insight into how TPF uses innovation to make an impact. Between reading/viewing materials and the discussion questions students tackled via Canvas, it was clear TPF tenets resonated. The students were a mix of undergrads, masters, and Ph.D. candidates, with many juggling full-time careers. This resulted in insightful reflections and engaging conversations. During our post-class debriefs, the TPF Trio reflected on how TPF concepts and words were becoming part of the students’ vocabulary. From the Cope-Adapt-Innovate concept to building connective tissue to Leadership, Willingness, Readiness, Capacity, and Culture (LWRCC), and more, tenets resonated.

While I could fill hours with TPF concepts, we chose to bring other TPFers into the virtual classes, with No Margin, No Mission’s Mike Oxman and Larry Clark taking the students on a journey into building nonprofit thrivability through mission-aligned decision-making. Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Beth Duda brought TPF colleague Ashley Coone and Dive into Reading’s founder Amanda Horne to the class to share how working in community strengthens shared aspirations. Spoken Word Poet, Cedric Hameed, touched our souls as we wove words about bravery into poems.

In addition to all mentioned in this narrative, I am grateful for IU LFSOP’s Idea-Meister Kathi Badertscher and Canvas Wizard Luke Bickel and the many TPFers who worked behind the scenes on flyers and creating resource guides.

Each of the students revealed their inner possibilitarian, while the TPF Trio learned as much as we shared. May the connective-tissue building percolate as we each work for the greater good.

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