The Patterson Foundation (TPF) is an independent charitable foundation in Sarasota, Florida that partners and connects with others to create new realities. Debra Jacobs, the Foundation’s CEO, contacted La Piana Consulting in early 2010 to talk about our experience with strategic restructuring. Jacobs and her team recognized that strategic restructuring – or collaborative restructuring, as they call it – is a powerful way for groups of organizations to leverage resources and capabilities for long-term “thrive-ability.”
TPF was initially interested in exploring how La Piana might provide training and education focused on strategic restructuring to both Foundation staff and the nonprofit and funder communities in the area. That work began in April of 2010. Almost immediately, TPF fielded several requests for financial support for assessment and exploration, including requests from two local community foundations and two disability service organizations – both were interested in assessing the potential for partnership. Thanks to support from TPF’s Collaborative Restructuring Initiative (or CRI, officially launched in the spring of 2010) La Piana worked closely with both groups as they did so. As a result of their explorations, the organizations learned a lot about themselves and the two community foundations have identified a way they can support and strengthen community-wide philanthropy.
The Patterson Foundation’s interest was not limited to providing educational opportunities and financial support, however. Upon learning about our consultant training programs, Jacobs and CRI Initiative Manager Pam Truitt attended a one-day introductory training in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That session, sponsored by the Foellinger Foundation, covered the fundamentals of consulting to organizations exploring or negotiating collaborative restructuring arrangements. Several months later, Truitt participated in the second phase of our program – a three-day intensive combining and extended role-play with case studies and in-depth discussions around contracting, the negotiations process, human resources, external communications, and implementation and integration. TPF realized that building local capacity among consultants was critical to its long-term success, and decided to sponsor a series of trainings in its own region – and then make available ongoing education and support, including mentoring, for consultants who choose to make the facilitation of collaborative restructuring efforts part of their practice. As Truitt said in her blog after the three-day intensive:
As Initiative Manager, I have gone through the training and emphatically state that, at least in the beginning, I could not do this work alone. In addition to learning and being skillful in the technical aspects…consultants must be effective facilitators, understand how to deal with difficult personalities, handle icebergs that invariably surface, guide discussions when appropriate and keep the process moving without favoring one organization over the other. If Wonder Woman were facilitating a nonprofit merger, she would need help!
TPF is also connecting with national funders in the collaboration space, such as the Lodestar Foundation, The Forbes Funds, and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, to learn and share information.
Over the past two years our relationship with TPF has evolved into a true partnership – one that is collaborative, productive, and extremely rewarding. We continue to work with TPF staff to understand and address the specific needs of their community, providing workshops, training, consulting, facilitation, and mentoring to nonprofits and local consultants alike. As a result of TPF’s commitment and our work together, more Florida nonprofits are aware of and actively exploring options for collaborative restructuring – and able to draw on local resources, both financial and technical, as they do so.