Photo: Good things take time

Philanthropy: A Dish Best Served with Good Timing

Posted on August 06, 2019 by Hannah Saeger Karnei, Inaugural TPF Fellow

In my free time since transitioning from working and grad school to *just working,* my husband and I have been attempting to hone (him) and learn (me) some new skills in the kitchen. What I’ve found in this adventure is that sometimes, what goes right or wrong is outside of our control, and the end result depends on how you react. Part of the uniqueness of The Patterson Foundation (TPF) is that they are willing to approach philanthropy knowing the same realization might surface.
Initiatives at TPF aren’t just another word for grant program areas. Motivated by what current challenges provide opportunities for change, they’re intended to strengthen people, organizations, and the community. So, rather than have grant-making cycles, end dates, reporting mandates or arbitrary funding limitations, initiatives are somewhat organic with the ability to grow, scale or shrink as necessary.
TPF works to include people, business, nonprofits, government, and media in every initiative. The nature of helping to drive lasting change with such high-level engagement is that sometimes progress stalls when new and complex factors come to light. TPF has learned that success happens most readily when they partner with entities that are aligned in terms of leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture.
That’s great, but what we’ve all experienced is that organizations and relationships shift constantly. So while a partnership may start with an alignment of “the five,” there are no guarantees. This organic nature of TPF initiatives allows for responsiveness without abandonment.

Because of the more flexible structure of TPF and its initiatives, there’s the ability to turn things down to a simmer. Perhaps partners fall out of alignment. Maybe, once community outreach has begun, it’s discovered that although the problem is known, the community isn’t ready to act yet. Those signals don’t mean that the problem is no longer important. It means that now isn’t the time.

By working through initiatives, TPF can keep the pot on the stove and be ready to turn the heat back up when the time is right rather than dumping the whole dish out. Patience and flexibility are important when you’re trying to create something excellent!  

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