As Fellows, we often have the opportunity to simultaneously learn from and contribute to new endeavors created by The Patterson Foundation (TPF). That was certainly the case as we entered the consulting "sprint" phase of the first iteration of Advancing Mission Thrivability (AMT).

Each Fellow had the opportunity to work alongside consultants Larry Clark and Mike Oxman from No Margin, No Mission to create consulting teams for the six organizations selected to participate through a rigorous advancement packet submission and review. Each organization was paired with either Mike or Larry and one of us, making each consulting duo unique.

The magic of this phase lived in the approach. Knowing that the six organizations had different needs and hopes for what would come out of the 4-session consulting "sprints," we tailored each approach, starting with an initial planning conversation that would inform the rest of their experiences.

Abby's Experience
I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I had with Mike and Larry and the nonprofits I worked with in AMT. Our Y and Florida Cultural Group are quite different, and so the process was informed by the nonprofits' current realities.

For example, Larry emphasized throughout the meetings with Our Y that this organization is a start-up. While born from Sarasota YMCA's ashes, Our Y is only a little over one year old. Just as the new organization was beginning to get into a groove, the pandemic hit. Like many nonprofits, Our Y had to rapidly shift programs to adjust. The staff and board are passionate though, and through our meetings, I learned how dedicated they are to making sure Our Y succeeds and serves the community in the best ways.

On the other hand, Florida Cultural Group (FCG) has a strong presence in the community and could quickly pivot to address a lack of in-person performances. Mike and I found that many of the ideas we suggested had already been thought of and implemented. From screenings of live performances in parking lots to practicing social distancing inside, FCG has rapidly shifted its programs and expanded newer ones. It was impressive to see how they innovated, and I believe that FCG will have creative ways to continue to align mission and economic decisions.

Hannah's Experience
As the Fellow with the longest tenure, I have had the pleasure of experiencing Mike and Larry in action through Margin and Mission Ignition, the initiative focused on building earned-income business plans. Being in the "zoom where it happens" throughout the AMT process was an exciting and much different experience.

Larry's approach was focused on a longer, more gentle guiding through self-discovery. It's the perfect example of meeting an organization where they are. During the first two meetings, I thought, goodness, we won't ever get to the action part of this engagement. Suddenly on meeting three, there was a breakthrough brought about by the careful exploration during meetings one and two, and we were off to the races. While Manatee Habitat had come into the engagement thinking about program shifts, they ended with an action plan to bring in a consultant to revamp the development approach, which will impact the organization across all program areas. A lifting of the tide, rather than one boat.

Mike was very direct and fast-paced from day one because the Bishop team came in with highly evolved ideas. The process was about pushing boundaries in different directions. Because museums often operate on a tried and true method, the Bishop team had been spending the COVID-19 shutdown period trying to reimagine what their expertise could offer to the community in the event they couldn't rely on gate fees for the majority of their revenue. The museum staff are excellent "doers," so the impact of AMT consulting really came in strategic thought partnership for the leadership team.

John's Experience
Throughout my fellowship, I have had the privilege of working with Mike and Larry many times in various capacities. It has always been (and continues to be) both enlightening and enjoyable. Joining them for this consulting sprint was more of the same and so much more. I observed and learned so much from them and was encouraged to be an active participant as we consulted with Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity and Punta Gorda Symphony.

Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity had embraced many opportunities during the onset of COVID-19 and focused on shifting some of their events and opportunities to a virtual setting. Mike's fast-paced but thorough approach allowed for robust conversations about their programs and the barriers and possibilities created by shifting to virtual formats. Regarding the Turkey Trot, a long-standing event, our discussions led to innovative solutions like tiered registrations and social media integration. These conversations affirmed and even increased the event's grounding in the mission, leading to a vast potential to yield high margins and high mission impacts.

Larry's style was perfect for Punta Gorda Symphony, as they were seeking a transformative experience in their organizational shift from an operating board to a policy-making board. With a seasoned development professional who was still fairly new to the executive director role and a dedicated, passionate board member in tow, the four of us engaged in deep and meaningful conversations uncovering and addressing organizational challenges standing in the way. We crafted strategies to move forward. The level of trust built within a 4-week endeavor was astonishing, and I am confident that PGSymphony is in great hands and poised for long term success.

Why it Matters
It is important to note that all six organizations are quite different (yes, even the two Habitat for Humanities) and needed different outcomes from their AMT consulting experiences. That's why the individualized technique was so critical to their success. A "boxed" approach may have been helpful in some ways, but to uniquely address each organization's needs by meeting them where they were was the special sauce that made it all come together.

We all learned a tremendous amount from our experiences working alongside Mike and Larry. The thoughtfulness, intense preparation, and vulnerable authenticity displayed was impressive and served as a roadmap for our future success as philanthropic leaders.

When you take the time to build trust and weave connective tissue, the outcomes far exceed what could be possible through a scripted approach. Both No Margin, No Mission and The Patterson Foundation believe that change happens at the speed of trust. And we just learned that through authenticity, openness, and intentionality, the speed of trust does not have to be slow. It just has to be real.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.