Philanthropy-Joining Forces a step forward for funder collaboration

Posted on May 05, 2014 by Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation

When The Patterson Foundation (TPF) was invited to become part of the launch of the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, it was not only an honor but also a no-brainer. The pledge, which is supported by more than 30 leading national philanthropies, commits $170 million in support of veterans over the next five years and was launched in partnership with the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, which is celebrating its third anniversary. Since 2010, TPF has worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - National Cemetery Administration to design, build and donate Patriot Plaza, a ceremonial amphitheater, to Sarasota National Cemetery. As one of 131 national cemeteries that have one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the county, we realized that with only 12% of veterans taking advantage of their burial benefit, there was an opportunity to spotlight this benefit for improvement not only for the 100,000 veterans in our local region but also across the country. Encouraging Funder Collaboration   Beyond committing funding for veterans and their families, the pledge encourages collaboration among funders – foundations, nonprofits, corporations – so that all involved may learn from each other in the way we support our nation’s service men and women. Funder collaboration is a popular topic as of late. A recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article cites everything from leadership alignment to organizational culture as reasons why funder collaboration isn’t as frequent or fruitful as it could be. At The Patterson Foundation, we often say that “Collaboration is an unnatural act between adults who didn’t want to do it in the first place.” Why is that? People are busy. Often it seems easier to just do the work rather than trying to figure out how to work with others. It takes time to build trust.  The list goes on and with every excuse losing sight of the big opportunity.  More can be accomplished when we bring a variety of talent and resources together. It is all about serving more people better.  The best combination of quality and quantity. We are passionate about the theory and act of collaboration. During Patriot Plaza’s construction, we created the Legacy of Valor Campaign, a mosaic of more than 100 partnerships to honor veterans, inspire patriotism and embrace freedom. By lifting up the challenges and work underway to support those who have served, are serving or may serve in our nation’s military, our region learned and engaged to make a difference. The Council on Foundations has stepped in to help all of us connect through the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange, an online knowledge center and community to promote effective strategies for collaboration and programs. With some nurturing and early adopters, this space will be a great opportunity for funders to learn from the successes and challenges of others – and who knows, maybe even nurture some new partnerships. The Passion to Move Forward When I attended the impact pledge forum in Washington D.C. April 30, there was great excitement in the room awaiting the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the founders of the Joining Forces initiative. As I met with leaders of national organizations serving veterans and participating pledge foundations, I was struck by the passion and stories everyone shared about the importance of their work. Some of my takeaways: With more than 400,000 veterans-serving organizations, there is no shortage of effort, but could the impact be heightened if there was more collaboration? With 28,000 nonprofits working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, what opportunities to share and work collaboratively might emerge with more high-touch and high-tech communications? With media, both national and local, creating headlines, how could the stories link those interested in helping veterans and military families to really touch those in need? My musings continue but the recurring theme is working together rather than working alone—whether as a person or an organization. So much more can be accomplished when we work together. photo credit: The Washington Times

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