Funders and nonprofits tapping into leadership, capacity and willingness like Walt Disney

Posted on April 19, 2012 by Pam Truitt

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it takes to create an environment where nonprofits are hungry to learn about how collaboration models can move the effective/efficient needle. This led to research, reading and a little inspiration to kick me into gear.

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." - Walt Disney

Thank you, Walt, for those words of wisdom!  Anybody who has read about Walt’s path to success knows that it took great courage and imagination. His road to transforming film animation was not an easy one, but he possessed three key ingredients:  leadership, capacity and willingness.

I found three examples of funders—and I’m betting there are more out there—who are building the collaboration appetite. Where will the appetite lead?  Ideally, to finding those with leadership, capacity and willingness to explore ‘what could be’.

The Forbes Funds hosts an annual forum where Pittsburgh-area nonprofits learn about national trends, attend technical sessions and hear first hand from other nonprofits that have been through successful collaboration processes. More than 125 folks (including me) attended the last forum. Following the forum, a formal application process kicks off in two areas:

  1. Cohort funding for nonprofit groups who want to study/learn to improve a particular area. (The Forbes Funds calls this the ‘spiraling up’ process.)
  2. Independent facilitators for two or more nonprofits interesting in exploring a partnership.

Over the last few years, The Forbes Funds has handled about 25 collaborative partnerships.

The Catalyst Fund, managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, is a Boston-area funders collaborative launched in September 2010. The fund supports independent facilitators for technical assistance in the exploration and merger negotiation phase. To jump start the process, Peter Kramer, Catalyst Fund Manager, hosted an educational session to both inform nonprofits of the new fund and to stir their appetite. To date, nine successful collaborations are on the books.

The Community Foundation For Greater Atlanta has hosted a couple of ‘what if’ sessions with local arts groups and La Piana Consulting to stir the collaboration juices. I understand from Lita Parti, Sr. Program Officer at the foundation, that a couple of the groups are now ready to explore partnerships.

OK readers, if you feel like we’ve been all over the map, we have……Disney, leadership, willingness, capacity, appetite, partnership…….and if you are also wondering how I’m going to tie this together, I am too!

Walt’s part in this blog was his can-do curiosity, disposition to take great risks and insightful quote. His appetite for animation was probably insatiable, and he is a role model for leadership, capacity and willingness.

The funders I’ve written about today will readily admit they do not know the answers on which nonprofits ought to form partnerships, but they are continually working on savory offerings to tap into leadership, capacity and willingness. What the funders do know is that when organizations begin to think beyond their own silos, effectiveness and efficiencies flow.

Do you know of funders that are tapping into leadership, capacity and willingness?  Please share!

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


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