Chicks Building Collaboration

Posted on January 25, 2012 by Pam Truitt

Before persons from the male species roll their eyes at my choice of photos, please read on...

Some years ago, I heard THE Andrew Young, former Congressman, United Nations Ambassador, spiritual leader and Mayor of Atlanta (to list a just a few of his accomplishments) speak.  Young described the story of how Atlanta won the bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Now here comes the disclaimer:  We have a saying in our house…..We might not remember it right, but boy don’t we remember it well. About 15 years separate the time I heard Young and what’s being transferred from my gray matter through my fingers onto this computer screen. So don’t hold me to the details, it’s the message that’s important!

According to Young, a group of women approached the male-dominated Atlanta ‘establishment’, seeking their leadership to win the Summer Olympics. Young recounted that the women were snubbed and then had to endure snide remarks from the ‘establishment’ over their silly notions. The women pressed on. After a long and arduous process—and only when it was clear that their efforts were successful, the ‘establishment’ stepped forward. I’ll never forget how Young phrased it, “the chicks were in charge!”

So, what possible connective tissue am I trying to make?  Hang in there with me.

Quite serendipitously, I’ve developed an amazing infrastructure of strong and committed women from foundations across the USA who are passionate about the collaborative restructuring field. I’ve already learned much from them and I know our collective efforts will continue to grow for the benefit of the greater good. Each ‘chick’ brings a unique quality and experience to our conversations. While collaboration takes effort, one of the main benefits is that I get to absorb their learnings, with the hope being that my trial and error is reduced.

Why is the collaboration important and likened to the Olympics experience?

- Because the field of nonprofit partnerships is not well-developed

- There are many pitfalls and uncertainties

- There are few players with depth (yes, men are in the field).

What a thrill to find this group who epitomizes “chicks in charge”!

  • Lois Savage, CEO of The Lodestar Foundation. The Arizona-based national foundation was an early pioneer in the field and continues to lead with initiatives such as the Collaboration Prize. Lois brings a big-picture perspective and experience in many projects. My horizon expands exponentially with every conversation.
  • Lita Pardi, Kathy Palumbo and Karen Beavor collectively make up the Atlanta bunch. Kathy and Lita hail from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and taught me that successful partnerships begin when one creates an environment and hunger for change. Karen runs the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, and has established a to-die-for system of purchasing power for nonprofits.
  • I met the Foellinger Foundation’s Cheryl Taylor and Dawn Martz before my appointment by TPF was announced and was so impressed by their strong interest and insight into the nonprofit partnership space. Their knowledge of nonprofit behavior is bar-none, and is judiciously used for the greater good.
  • The Forbes Funds and its leader, Diana Bucco, are light years ahead in terms of developing the partnership model. The foundation grew out of the difficult times that Pittsburgh faced when the steel industry pulled out three decades ago. Diane has an enormous amount of experience, information and gumption and the folks served by Pittsburgh’s nonprofits benefit.  In addition to funding a facilitator for two or more nonprofits looking at a specific partnership, The Forbes Fund will also fund a cohort of nonprofits who desire to tackle a particular issue.

This group continues to grow, making more connections and these connections will assist in cultivating and developing the collaborative restructuring field. What an absolute delight it is to be part of creating new realities for the greater good. For now, “chicks are in charge”—but men are most welcome!


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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