Yesterday's Solutions May Not Fit Today's Realities

Yesterday's Solutions May Not Fit Today's Realities

Posted on January 23, 2023 by Connor LaGrange, TPF Fellow 2021/22
Did you know it is illegal in Florida to sing in a bathing suit? Not at all joking! One of the many strange laws still on the books here in the Sunshine state. Another wacky law, it is illegal for a woman to fall asleep under a hair dryer in a salon. I wish I were joking, but these laws are still enforceable. Now, are they enforced? Most likely not. I have belted out a tune or two at the beach and am here to tell the tale.

Now, sure, these hilariously over-the-top laws are fun trivia and great for a chuckle. But they represent something organizations do so often.

You see, these laws are in place because of something that happened. One does not simply wake up discussing why folks cannot sing in a bathing suit. Something was a catalyst for the creation of these seemingly unhinged rules. In response, actions were taken to combat whatever event caused such a headache. And then we never revisited the issue.

I have seen this frequently in the foundation space. Something spurns action, systems are put in place, and the topic is quickly in the rearview mirror. Often, these antiquated systems put in place for the betterment of the community, writ large, become detrimental as time passes on.

The laws above are, of course, more comical than anything. But what if every light snooze in the hair salon resulted in a hefty citation or, worse, a night in a cell? Society would be outraged (at least, they should be). We would be out to rewrite the law and rid ourselves of whoever was behind the nonsensical legal ideas.

But when a foundation has outmoded policies and procedures, we continue boxing in our community partners, making them adhere to illogical ideas.

"Well, we once had a partner not comply the way we thought they would, so now every partner and every grant, no matter the size of the grant or relationship we have with the partners, requires a written report, plus pages of receipts and testimonials."

When whoever made this rule, it may have made a world of sense. "We got burned before; let's not get burned again."

Unequivocally we must ensure we steward our resources well. But stewarding well and remaining unchanged because that is the easier path are two completely different scenarios.

We, as funders, have a particular power dynamic as it relates to those in the community we help support. This is not a bad thing, but something we must be cognizant of. Our community partners may not bring up outdated systems due to fracturing relationships with funders.

What do we do with the "power" we have as funders? Is it something we wield and lord over our partner's heads? Is it something we are entirely oblivious to? Are we simply a group of people with power who create rules and forget to check back on how they affect our community members?

Our world would be much brighter if the funding space were one where foundations continually evaluate the systems and rules they have in place. At The Patterson Foundation, we talk about the idea of change happening at the speed of trust. One way to build trust with partners, potential partners, and community members is by consistently being vulnerable and open to change. Evaluation of processes allows for the best results to emerge.

We must guarantee the answers we have as funders are answers to questions still being asked.

The solutions to yesterday's problems may not fit today's realities.

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