In a previous blog post, I discussed the heart of philanthropy and how it's important to stay focused on love and caring and connection during good times and bad.

However, that being said, it is vital to not only listen to the emotional stories but to heed the data. Because data, in my experience, also tells a story. It takes both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of philanthropy to understand the entire picture.

To support my point, I first viewed photos and videos and read quotes/testimonies about the impact of THIS BOOK IS COOL! (the impetus for the previous post).

Then, I decided to dive into data about The Patterson Foundation's (TPF) community engagement "reaches" or "touches." Both of these components of TPF illustrate different points about how it connects and why it's important. By reaching out in a variety of ways, TPF can connect with people, organizations, and communities while also respecting how each chooses or is able to face COVID during this time.

TPF uses the framework of "cope, adapt, innovate" to consider how individuals and organizations feel and respond to COVID. These stages ebb and flow, and are different for everyone – we move in and out of them at different times. We need time to huddle under our covers and cry about the state of the world (the coping stage, or maybe just my coping stage!) That being said, we also can think outside the box and try new things during a very uncertain time. For example, how can we innovate and connect with the community in different ways than we ever have before?

Before I began working at TPF, everything I had read or experienced about the foundation suggested it was either innovating or adapting. When I arrived, I realized I wasn't wrong. Staff and consultants may personally be in cope, but they honestly still strive to identify new opportunities to connect with and support the community during this time.

You can get a sense of innovation through data TPF collected since March from initiatives, including the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Advancing Philanthropic Leadership, Aspirations to Actions, Census 2020 Education, and Margin & Mission Ignition's Advancing Mission Thrivability.

Where does innovation appear in this data? TPF thrives on in-person engagement and connection. Engagement Team members and consultants previously connected directly to community members through in-person pop-up laundry events, the in-person summer blast-off event to motivate community members for the Summer Reading Challenge, in-person meetings with No Margin, No Mission consultants Michael Oxman and Larry Clark, even an in-person, weeklong academic course to introduce philanthropic studies students to TPF. All of those changed as TPF adapted to COVID and its unprecedented challenges.

Consider the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading's THIS BOOK IS COOL!, which I discussed in a previous post. It didn't exist until April. It was a completely new way of connecting during COVID — 100 webisodes focusing on 100 different books in 10 weeks. Five thousand two hundred seventy-four children in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties participated. Pretty innovative!

SCGLR also moved its summer kick-off program online and organized two family engagement nights on Zoom, one with spoken word poet Cedric Hameed and one with origami artist Kuniko Yamamoto. More than 75 people attended these two events, where parents, children, and friends had the opportunity to bond and create memories through poetry and origami.

In less than one week, the Advancing Philanthropic Leadership initiative moved the entirety of the academic course "Experiential Learning with The Patterson Foundation," online. Ten students from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy had the opportunity to meet with The Patterson Foundation staff and team members, local nonprofit leaders, and other community members. As student Rachel Ploss said, her time working with the Visual Arts Center was an “experience I will carry with me forever.”

Aspirations to Actions virtual community conversations in Manatee County led by Manatee Community Foundation's Alicia Chalmers and TPF Fellow Hannah Saeger Karnei moved to a virtual platform, eliciting many attendees who care deeply about their community. More than 40 people participated in four community conversations, illustrating a deep desire to find ways to make their community better.

Saeger Karnei has also worked virtually with a team across four counties to drive participation in the census, conducted every ten years in order to get an accurate count of people living in the United States. Census information is used to allocate annually distributed federal funds based on each community’s population. Saeger Karnei and team have hosted virtual presentations with more than 70 people in attendance to help boost census understanding and participation.

The Margin & Mission Ignition team created Advancing Mission Thrivability, an online learning series to help nonprofits align mission-centric decision making and economic-centric decision-making. More than 141 people from dozens of nonprofits in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties participated in this learning series to align their decision-making processes during COVID-19.

Data adds context and meaning. So how many people were reached by the various initiatives adapting and innovating? More than 6,800 from late March until the end of July. And that doesn't count the more than 25,000 views of THIS BOOK IS COOL!

If you want to dive even further into the data, you’ll see more context added to each initiative's work as you see the number of people reached in a singular activity. Those activities consist of online conversations, presentations, labs, webinars, labinars and webversations (new words thanks to AMT), webisodes (courtesy of SCGLR), book circles, movie screenings, and panel discussions.

With a large variety of ways to engage, TPF does its best to adapt and innovate. The foundation understands that people, whether internally or externally, organizations, and communities need time and space to cope, adapt, and innovate. Looking at data shows how TPF strives to listen to and come alongside individuals, organizations, and communities regardless of the stage that they operate.

Using both data and testimonies, TPF continues to connect with others and find ways to make our world a better place.

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