Along with the team at MagnifyGood, I have lead the strategic communications for The Patterson Foundation as the Foundation has evolved. The agile, innovative, and enlightened approach to philanthropy is evidenced through its initiatives, connecting community, organizations, and people to their collective aspirations — ensuring an environment of learning, sharing, and uplifting efforts.
I recently attended a keynote at the Florida Philanthropic Network’s 2017 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy delivered by Rip Rapson, president of The Kresge Foundation. He talked about Philanthropy’s Role in a new era referencing how philanthropy looks to the future in a VUCA environment — the shorthand the Department of Defense uses for volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous. The Patterson Foundation’s agile philosophy guided by a willingness to navigate twists and turns mirrors an effective response to VUCA.
I was struck by how TPF’s approach closely aligns with Rip’s ten principles, that he believes, will advance the future effectiveness of philanthropy:
Principle #1: Clarify, amplify and stand by the values that guide your work.
Stand for the benefits of working in genuine partnership with individuals and organizations allied in common purpose. This collaborative model is making an impact in Manatee and Sarasota counties, where the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading brings together organizations and entities throughout the community to strengthen efforts toward the shared goal of helping children — especially those from low-income families — succeed in school and in life by reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
Principle #2: Explore the possibilities of setting the table for your community’s most difficult, emotionally, and politically charged intractable conversations.
TPF has provided the tools and resources for the community to chart its future through advancing community conversations.
Principle #3: Look for the connections among things.
Rip suggests that there is no such thing in this work as a singular set of causes or a one-and-done effort. TPF’s fundamentals are based on developing and supporting connections.
Principle #4: Embrace the possibility of working across sectors, particularly with government and business.
Rapson states that philanthropy is coming to understand that the roles and responsibilities of each sector are not quite so hard and fast as we once thought — and that wading into the unruly, unpredictable public and private realms can be a necessary part of getting things done.
Principle #5: Invest in community problem-solving capacity.
“We have to build enduring muscle for citizens to engage meaningfully with — and indeed shape — those institutions whose policies, practices, and networks of power set the ground-rules for community life.” Rather than award grants, The Patterson Foundation’s support is beyond the check — providing consultants and subject-matter experts to strengthen efforts, people, and organizations.
Principle #6: Take risks commensurate with the magnitude of the challenges you seek to confront.
TPF’s agile and adaptive approach creates an environment of learning from challenges and perceived failures allowing for risk-taking innovation.
Principle #7: Develop comfort with working beyond the grant.
Collaborative efforts require depth and human capital with long-term success measures. Supporting the process of learning, sharing, evolving, and strengthening goes far beyond the check.
Principle #8: Invest in the power of place.
The Patterson Foundation’s philosophy of national to local and local to national creates a pride of ownership in the community with the goal of continuous improvement — bringing best practices to local efforts and sharing further innovations developed indigenously with communities nationwide.
Principle #9: Seek to ensure that climate change becomes increasingly central to public decision-making.
“The transition to greater resilience must occur in ways that don’t further compound the hardships facing disadvantaged people already at greater risk.” TPF works to address both the short and long-term challenges of evermore-frequent natural disasters by strengthening efforts focused on smart funding, preparedness, and recovery.
Principle #10: Cultivate partnerships with other philanthropies.
“The success of each of us depends on the success of all of us.” TPF’s contributions of catalytic funding to partners like the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and NetHope has connected them with additional supporters — strengthening their impact and building new bridges within the philanthropic community.
Rip concluded with his hope that these principles have relevance when viewed through the lens of a changing definition of philanthropy’s role.