Letter to the editor – Shared vision fuels partnerships

To the editor:

Interesting idea: charitable supply and demand [Customers count, Philanthropy Journal, 8/12/03].

It raises the question, what is the nature of the partnership between funders and nonprofits?

My experience suggests the best partnerships are based on common vision, and shared purpose, leading to mutual trust and a willingness to try new things.

The payoff is results that advance a social good. The money is not — or more accurately, should not — be the payoff. Or to use business terms, it is more about the business plan than the budget.

When funders and nonprofits that previously had common vision and shared purpose diverge, there are usually consequences that get characterized differently, depending on point of view.

The funder wants to invest in results aligned in vision, and the nonprofit wants to do what it feels is important but is constrained by need for the funder’s resources – a bind.

The trust and the flexibility are both affected.

In business, partnerships that no longer have adequate common vision and shared purpose are ended.

But because of the other basis for partnership between funders and nonprofits — mutual dependency, entitlement, and sheer inertia — altering the terms of a partnership is difficult and often marked by recrimination.

Funders and nonprofits would do well to reach out to each other, if they are both focused on common purpose, shared vision and increasing results.

Without that focus, it is a much less meaningful conversation.

— Howard G. Mason, director of community building, Metro United Way, Louisville, Ky.

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