Last week, I shared the beginning of a journey with six organizations by setting up the scenarios. This week, I’ll get into the meat of the story!
Kudos to all but especially the following five organizations — those run solely by volunteers — for setting aside significant amounts of time to engage in a collective ‘strategy refresh.' The focus during the sessions was on Cultural Connections, rather than their individual organizations.
The next round of thanks goes to the Anna Maria Island Community Center for not only hosting most of our sessions, but for also stepping up and fully engaging.
The Patterson Foundation engaged Dr. Sandy Hughes to facilitate the Cultural Connections conversations, and I was privileged to work with her. I know the organizations learned and grew—and so did I!
Conversations have been catalytic. While each group has historically participated in Cultural Connections, they did so in varying degrees. Parallel to the collaboration efforts, a new executive director at the Anna Maria Island Community Center had just started. Dawn Stiles has been at every session sharing her prior experience in collaborations, learning about the Island’s culture and creating bonds with fellow leaders.
The journey has been far ranging. The groups took the ‘strategic-thinking’ time seriously and brought the warmth and friendly hospitality of a small town with big aspirations to the table. With the facilitators’ guidance, the groups considered, debated, edited, massaged and embraced: new mission statement, new strategic framework, governing documents, collaborative fundraising, partnering in greater depth, 21st century communications strategies, and clarity around changing demographics. Now they all have (or will soon have) profiles on The Giving Partner, an online platform that helps donors make more informed decisions about giving. The conversations are lively, insightful and focused on the common good.
We listened and learned, too.
One of the values of an outside perspective is that we can nurture conversations that need to happen, but for various reasons haven't happened. And we had to be flexible enough to go with the flow. Initially, we thought we would guide the development of back-office services, but we soon learned that Cultural Connections was ripe for a ‘strategy refresh." In the true fashion of The Patterson Foundation, we brought all the tools to the party and went to the 10,000-foot level. When you think about it, it’s hard to talk about operational efficiencies and effectiveness when the goals aren’t clear. So, first things first.
Sandy Hughes taught me the value of incorporating “fun” into these strategic thinking exercises. She brought clay, peanut M&Ms and an assortment of other treats to the Cultural Café. Fortunately, nearly all of the participants (including the facilitators) wear the ‘I have a certifiable sweet tooth’ badge and we bonded over food.
Wendell Graham (Artist and Artist Guild Board Member) brought homemade ice box treats and pound cake to one session and Community Chorus & Orchestra’s Jeannie Pickwick brought homemade brownies to another. Did I mention how the extra effort by these leaders was extremely welcoming and helps forge more bonding? (Food hospitality isn’t dead!)
What’s the clay for? While conversations are underway, the creative types in the room make things. I saw birdhouses, alligators, abstract swirlies and worms.
Working with the groups has been interesting and rewarding. We learned about their dedication to seeing arts and culture flourish for all citizens to enjoy. We learned how much sweat equity each has invested in their respective organizations and in the collaboration. We’ve come to appreciate the special people on this special island. A couple of individuals have shared how much they have personally grown during the process.
Though their work isn’t complete, it’s time for transition. The facilitators must step aside to allow the collaboration to take hold.
The final chapter in this journey—what they learned, what was accomplished and what the future holds will be shared in a final blog of this series.
Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.
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