Using the Best Structure to Support Your Organizational Strategy

Using the Best Structure to Support Your Organizational Strategy

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation
You receive $220 million and are told you must start an organization for the purpose of “doing good.” Other than being instructed to “do good,” you are not given direction on spending the money. Further, you are not given guidance on structuring the organization you will lead in which nearly $11 million per year must spend in this pursuit. This is the exact scenario which led to the creation of The Patterson Foundation (TPF).

To the credit of the Governing Board and CEO, all of whom continue in their leadership roles with TPF, there was an intentional effort to structure the organization to support the initial and future strategy of the organization. Since there was no direction on how to spend the money, the founding leadership anticipated the strategy of TPF changing as it matured. This required a flexible organizational structure to drive the immediate strategy and evolve with the future strategy.

Instead of succumbing to the urge to hire people in fairly short order, the leadership of TPF made the decision to allow the strategy to evolve over a period of several years. This meant future change was foreseeable which required a unique approach to structuring the staff of TPF as it evolved.

Core Staff
Recognizing the responsibilities required on a day-to-day basis and the workload to launch the work of the foundation, TPF hired three full-time employees: a CEO, an Office Manager, and an Initiative Support person. These three positions were identified as being critical to TPF regardless of the strategy. These three positions continue today.

Independent Contractor Consultants
TPF began its work in nine unique areas, and these were determined by understanding topics of interest/impact to Jim and Dorothy Patterson. It was decided that these areas of interest would not be part of the long-term strategy of TPF, but because TPF had to “start somewhere,” these were logical.

Given the short-term nature of these nine initiatives, and the expertise required in each, the decision was made to engage independent contractor consultants on a project basis in lieu of hiring full-time employees. Hiring experts in each of the areas, and hiring experts who were local to the Sarasota community, allowed TPF to gain immediate access to exceptional talent without the long-term commitment of hiring employees whose skills might not support the future strategy of TPF. Further, engaging local talent allowed TPF to begin its touch points into the local community.

Increased Staff
In 2016, TPF added additional staff positions. As TPF matured and settled into its longer-term direction, its work evolved and included the need for personnel which did not meet the criteria of being independent contractors. This is important: while people are very happy being independent contractors and while they confirmed they were paying all of their taxes, the law dictates which work is considered “independent work” and which requires someone to become an employee. TPF was and is very conscientious of this and works with its accounting partner and legal counsel to review roles and job descriptions to ensure proper classification.

Employed Consultants (partnering with a staffing firm) 
As the work of TPF continues to expand, there is a need for part-time personnel who can work flexible hours. Fortunately, TPF has identified and/or approached a number of people who need flexible hours and who want to work part-time.

In a perfect world, these individuals would be independent contractors. However, given the type of work being done by these individuals, the Department of Labor states these people must be employees. TPF is a small organization with no human resources department and with little infrastructure to handle the onboarding, training and payroll for 15 part-time, flexible employees. To best serve these independent people and to remain compliant with regulations, TPF partnered with a temporary staffing firm to employ these individuals and provide payroll, HR, pay taxes, etc. while working for TPF. So while these people are employees of the staffing firm, each does work for and on behalf of TPF.

Using Structure to Drive Strategy
TPF has been very intentional to use its organizational structure to strengthen its evolving strategy. The opportunity and temptation to do the opposite existed at its founding because of the financial resources available. But because leadership knew the strategy was going to change over time, the need to have a flexible staffing structure was necessary. By using full-time staff, independent contractors, and employed consultants, TPF is balancing this country’s employment regulations with the need for flexibility in its talent pool.

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


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