Organic intentionality allows flexibility for funders, nonprofits

Organic intentionality allows flexibility for funders, nonprofits

Posted on June 21, 2012 by Pam Truitt

"I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."   - Thomas Edison

My sweet and funny husband has command of the English language like no other. I’m always impressed and so appreciate his humor, frequently wondering to myself where does he get this stuff? Occasionally, he’ll incorporate a word or phrase (that I’ve never heard of or haven’t heard of in ages), into everyday conversation.

So, what’s the word of the month? Gobsmacked.

And darn it, that word is perfect for describing how I felt after reading “Catalyzing Nonprofit Collaboration, A Report on the Community Catalyst Fund.

The well-written report is an honest assessment of a funder’s collaborative paired with knowledge, skill and talent. Led by the Foundation for the Carolinas, the entire report can be downloaded here. The lessons learned are for funders, nonprofits and consultants, so consider the hour or so reading as investment for the future.

If one were building a program to implement the Catalyst Fund's program mission, I would model it after the one described in this report:

- Genuine commitment by the community leadership to strengthen the nonprofit sector

- Committed high-level thought leaders

- Recent data

- Extensive education and outreach

- Dedicated staff

- Sufficient funding

- Access to seasoned consultants who shepherd conversations among nonprofits

But here’s why I’m gobsmacked: with all of these efforts, the program did not produce the big ideas and innovation envisioned by the thought-leaders.

Now, don’t read this the wrong way…..there were results, and a lot of seeds were planted. From my read, those involved are disappointed from the overall experience.

How do I compare this approach to that of The Patterson Foundation’s?

Although I long for goals and objectives (did ya’ll know my background is in urban planning?), at TPF we use a process called organic intentionality — or conscious purpose. We act when things are ripe or ready. We are content to sit on the sidelines in nonprofit collaborations until things begin to take shape, although we would consider facilitating a situation that just needs a little ‘oomph’ for readiness to blossom. We are here, but not on a set plan. I try to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around my schedule and that, of course, means that I need heaps of patience.

In terms of implementing a strategy, there is one, it’s just not clearly laid out….and it changes as we learn and grow - very organically and very intentionally. Are we getting results from this path?  Yes, and some of those results are the same as the Catalyst Fund: planting seeds and changing mindsets.

How are communities in your sphere approaching the nonprofit partnership space?

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


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