Photo: Fueling Dynamic Fundraising Knowledge Sharing Session

From Competition to Collaboration: Reflecting on February’s Fueling Dynamic Fundraising Knowledge Sharing Session

Posted on April 09, 2024 by Andrew Spector, TPF Fellow 2023/24
On February 16th, I attended a Knowledge Sharing Session (KSS) for 43 nonprofit participants from The Patterson Foundation’s (TPF) Fueling Dynamic Fundraising (FDF) initiative. FDF provides nonprofits with free fundraising courses from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (LFSOP), and KSSs are a strategy used across several TPF initiatives to deepen learning, share successes, problem-solve around challenges, and build connections.

While at February’s FDF KSS, I was inspired by the collaboration among the nonprofits in the room. As I observed the Q&A with LFSOP’s Bill Stanczykiewicz, Ed.D. and listened to table conversations, I noticed honest communication about challenges and willing sharing about successes. The 43 nonprofit leaders in the room weren’t afraid to look bad or reveal promising practices. They were teammates working towards making the world a better place.

This isn’t necessarily the status quo in the philanthropic sector. Nonprofits often feel in competition with each other for funding and are so busy doing important work that they aren’t in relationship with each other. Sometimes nonprofits develop a scarcity mindset, which is rooted in either a perceived or actual reality of finite resources. This mindset can be reinforced by a burdensome motley of application and reporting requirements that challenge nonprofits’ capacity.

Initiatives like FDF that bring nonprofits together, along with practices like KSS’s, help nonprofits come into relationship with each other, view themselves from a systems level, shift from a scarcity to abundance mindset, and rediscover the power of collaboration.

A high-impact nonprofit understands itself within a larger context, operating with a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social issues and who else is working in their arena. A high-impact nonprofit exists because it knows it plays a unique role in the ecosystem; it puts vision and mission over institutional survival, and, in that spirit, leadership is willing to engage in candid dialogue with funders, make connections to funders for fellow nonprofits, and even be open to sunsetting or merging with other organizations. As I left the FDF KSS on February 16th, I felt like a future where all nonprofits exhibit these mindsets and behaviors was more within reach.

If you’re a nonprofit, what can you do to better understand yourself in context and explore vision- and mission-aligned collaboration opportunities? If you’re a funder, like TPF does with FDF and KSSs, what can you do to meaningfully support collaboration among nonprofits and increase nonprofits’ capacity for strategic reflection? How would all this enable the philanthropic sector to achieve more impact?

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