Breakout Session 4: How do we develop/strengthen partnerships?

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Breakout Session 4: How do we develop/strengthen partnerships?

Facilitated by Michael Marsicano – President and CEO, Foundation for the Carolinas

Scribe: Susan Knudten, Senior Communications Officer, Rose Community Foundation

Michael began with a short presentation containing data from several sources, which will be posted at a later date.

What brought you to this session?

Q: A participant had a specific interest in media partnerships. Any experience there?

A: In Charlotte, they have created www.thoughtbox.org,  a site that provides “self-storage for Charlotte’s most important topics.” This ranges from dialogue to sermons to studies to discussions.

Q: How do you figure out where to go to get correct information?

A: There is no formal process yet to determine what should/shouldn’t be included on the site. It’s more like a library resource at this time than anything else.

Q: Does anyone know of multi-funder media-related collaborations?

Incourage Foundation in Wisconsin has a great collaboration with MIT that was developed after meeting at this Knight conference.

Project idea from Detroit: How do you make your community more sustainable? The project became more narrowly-focused for a period on the “walkability” of the community but is now being broadened again. There are calls to action included, tools to help people coordinate, other resources. The site will be in beta soon: www.modeshift.org. The goal is to get the community involved and to get them excited to share information.  The challenge is to get media partnerships – there is a barrier of entities not wanting to share information.

Useful Resources:

Lodestar Foundation – focused on collaborative work: www.lodestarfoundation.org.

Nonprofit Collaborative Database at the Foundation Center: www.foundationcenter.org/gainknowledge/collaboration/       

Some thoughts/challenges about collaboration from the group:

• Trying to get all of the vested organizations to agree on a common goal and/or how to achieve it.

• Regarding mergers, it can be an uphill battle to get organizations to see that their niche is not going to get lost. People may fear that an organization’s specific “wisdom” will be lost in collaboration. Will there be a new norm? Or will the old norm be lessened in some way?

• It can take months and thousands of dollars for meetings to build trust.

• Playing the neutral convener can be time-consuming and more complicated but can be very effective. (Sometimes community foundations can pay for others to facilitate/convene.)  This can be a better ROI at times than a conventional grant.

• It has taken a lot of education to get invested parties like board members to see that collaboration can be a good thing. Multi-agency collaboration is generally not discussed with board members when they begin their terms so it can seem like an alien concept, especially when a board member is passionately committed to an organization’s specific mission.

• Sharing information is a real key. It can be human nature to want to hold information but that is not necessarily useful.

• There’s not always accurate information available. I.e., dropout rates are not reported, although graduation rates are. But they are not the same thing.

• It can be a challenge for conveners to make it clear that they don’t have a ‘secret agenda.’

• Comparing/sharing information can be hard when it is calculated/measured in different ways by different organizations.

• There is not the same type of incentive to consolidate/collaborate in the nonprofit world as there is in the for-profit world.

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