"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." - Henry Ford
Earlier this year, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) began a process of facilitated conversations with 20 or so dedicated volunteer leaders whose love, care, guidance and tenacity has sustained six community benefit organizations (CBO) for many years. This story will share part of their journey--as told from the facilitators’ perspectives.
Sensing the urge for learning and sharing, arts and cultural leaders on Anna Maria Island formed Cultural Connections, whose mission is to “to promote Anna Maria Island as a cultural destination." For more than four years, Artist and Artists Guild Board President Joan Voyles coordinated and chaired the monthly meetings. Strong on inclusiveness, Cultural Connections memberships are open to community benefit organizations (nonprofits) and for-profits—as both are interested in promoting arts and culture.
Cultural Connections was at a point where they felt some help in efficiencies and effectiveness would facilitate growth and Voyles reached out to The Patterson Foundation. The six community benefit organizations are:
While rounding up a group of folks that share similar goals is a step in the right direction, experience has taught us that a preliminary assessment—to get a lay of the land—provides information you will not hear in group meetings.
In May 2013, individuals from each organization were personally interviewed. The goal of the interviews was to listen:
Is there a willingness to explore collaborations?
Are there any barriers or unspoken trust issues that might manifest later into road blocks?
What areas of collaboration are the highest priorities?
At the end of the interview process, the facilitators summarized the interviews. In general, the organizations have a high level of trust among the individuals that participate in Cultural Connections. There had been communications challenges between two groups, but it appeared that those were in the past. They also shared that they are open to concepts that would streamline operations. That’s good. But we also learned things we didn’t ask:
• Board members are tired and there is competition for the same folks on multiple boards.
• Organizational growth has been elusive due to a variety of factors, but the No. 1 reason is that only one (Anna Maria Island Community Center) of the six can afford paid staff. Without paid staff, a number of other dominos fall.
• Limited/no access to best practices
• Volunteer leaders are facing burn out and it has been difficult attracting new leaders with fresh ideas and energy
• Limited fundraising abilities
• Demographic changes resulting in volunteer shortages combined with changing preferences of seasonal residents
And these insights became the starting point for our conversations.
My next blog will focus on the journey, but I would like to hear from you! When you are working with community benefit organizations through listening, you learn they share similar experiences. What would you do?
Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.
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