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Collaboration Unleashed: Trends That Defined Philanthropy in 2023

Discover the real-world stories and examples that showcase successful collaborations, demonstrating the power of unity in addressing the challenges of our time. Whether you’re a funder or a nonprofit organization, this episode offers invaluable insights and inspiration to fuel your own collaborative endeavors.


Brad Ward, Regional Director, Community Foundations | Foundant Technologies

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, Founder | DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services

Andrea Dicks, President | Community Foundations of Canada

Cesar Del Valle, Director of Partnerships | Candid



Andrea Dicks 00:00:00:00

There has always been a dynamic of one having power over another and through things like trust based philanthropy, through changing how we fund. I think that’s the brightest spot that we can follow, is how we change ourselves.

Logan Colegrove 00:00:15:04

Welcome to Connected Philanthropy. Today’s episode is a panel discussion on collaboration in philanthropy. This discussion comes from a recorded webinar. The first voice you’ll hear is our moderator, Brad Ward, followed by our panelists introducing themselves. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Brad Ward 00:00:37:00

As we get closer and closer to the end of 2023, start turning our attention already to 2024. Why not get an assessment of how things are shaking out for 2023 when we talk about what we thought was going to be a key trend, which was the continuations of collaborations and coalitions. And so to get to that. We have a fabulous cast here.

Brad Ward 00:00:57:18

I want to start by letting them tell you a little bit about their backgrounds and their organizations. But, Diane, I’d love to get started with you.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:01:06:09

Thank you so much for having me. Hello, everyone. I’m Diane Leonard. Pronouns She her. I’m the president and owner of D.h Leonard Consulting. We are a national grant writing and service firm based in the Thousand Islands and far, far, far upstate New York. Although we do work in many communities around the country, and while you may say Oh so on the grant seeking side, actually my background is that I was a grant maker first.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:01:31:24

So I have been on both sides of the equation. I was the program officer for the Michigan Women’s Foundation at the earlier part of my career, and I said this is stressful for both sides. And so my work does still span both sides. But a lot of my day today is in helping the grant, seeking side to think about how they partner with the grant making side.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:01:51:24

So again, thanks for having me today.

Brad Ward 00:01:53:16

We’ll get on with the introductions and I’ll turn it over to Ms.. Andrea, who’s coming in from the Community Foundations of Canada.

Andrea Dicks 00:02:00:29

Thanks, Brad. Hi, everyone. It’s so nice to be here. I’m in Ottawa today and Ottawa is the I’m surrender territory and the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. I have been living here in Ottawa for almost ten years. It will be ten years in January, which seems like wild to think about for eight. But what is even more incredible is that I’ve been part of the Community Foundation network.

Andrea Dicks 00:02:25:17

This coming January will mark 14 years and that to me just it was like yesterday. Yesterday, it seems like I was the first executive director of a community foundation. And that community foundation was just down the road in a community called Peterborough. And that’s how I started my community foundation journey. And so I was part of that team that was starting that organization and then moved ten years ago, as you now know, to come work with CSC, with the National Organization for Canada’s Community Foundations.

Andrea Dicks 00:03:01:12

And so I’m sure many of you are familiar with community foundations here in Canada. There are now, as of last Thursday, there are now 206 community foundations that are part of our network. And we just had a board meeting last week and so welcomed a new member. So you are the first group of people to to know this.

Andrea Dicks 00:03:21:26

But community foundations are all around the world. They are in 75 countries. There’s nearly 2000 community foundations around the world doing incredible things that are focused in on building belonging. Now we talk at CFC about the future that we want to build, a future that is bright, a future that is just a future that is sustainable. And how we’re working towards that future is with our network and our partners.

Andrea Dicks 00:03:47:29

And so delighted to be here with one of our partners. Townsend And to talk about the great work that happens in partnership and in collaboration. So thank you for having me and I look forward to the conversation.

Brad Ward 00:04:00:10

And thank you for that. Andrea You’re absolutely right. You have got a depth of experience right there in Canada, but you also are very important to both the North American movement around community philanthropy as well as international. So I’m excited to get into a little bit of both perspectives on what you’re seeing, both at a micro level but also at a macro standpoint, because there is a lot of exciting things happening at both scales.

Brad Ward 00:04:24:02

And so to round us up as my my friend Cesar here, give us the take of what you’re up to with Candide, and then we’ll dig into some of the specifics of what you’re seeing as well.

Cesar Del Valle 00:04:36:09

Yeah. Thank you very much, Brad. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening to everyone. Depending on where everyone’s calling in from. Again, my name is Cesar del Valle. You are so sad that way. I use pronouns. I’m director of partnerships at Candid. I’m calling in from Brooklyn, New York, which is the traditional land of the lab. The people at Candide, if you’re not familiar, we are the offspring of the merger between GuideStar and Foundation Center that happened about four years ago.

Cesar Del Valle 00:05:01:05

Our focus is really on creating as a philanthropy service organization a more effective, more efficient and more equitable sector by ensuring that any social sector stakeholder has the data and the information they need to do good. As Director of Partnerships, I’m excited about this conversation because pretty much what we do in developing partnerships is all about collaboration through and through.

Cesar Del Valle 00:05:21:07

I’m fortunate to oversee a lot of our international partners, and domestically we’ve really been focusing on the standardization and the centralization of demographic data for the sector, which I’m looking forward to sharing a little bit more about. But if anyone does want to poke around and learn about that, you can just go to Candid Dawg Backslash DDC. But looking forward to the conversation.

Cesar Del Valle 00:05:39:18

Thank you very much for having us today.

Brad Ward 00:05:41:13

Thank you, Cesar. So let’s just jump right in here with this idea that none of us are too born with the idea that we came out of the world pandemic. And so we saw an unprecedented level of collaboration and and coalitions being formed to get the work done in a crisis that expanded globally. Certainly since then, we’ve had a lot of individual crises occur across around the world and in different communities that have continued to put pressure on the need for collaboration and the need for coordinated response.

Brad Ward 00:06:13:07

But but taking that aside and as we headed into 2023, acknowledging and Diane, I might start with you acknowledging that that there was still a lot of emphasis, a lot of desire to see collaborations, coalitions move forward, big promises, you know, big, big ideas around what could be accomplished. I’m curious, where do we stand now as 20, 23 rolls on and people are less coordinated in a global response of of need.

Brad Ward 00:06:42:00

And now back to maybe business, perhaps as usual in terms of looking at the specifics of what their community needs. I’m curious, have we made progress? Have we backslid on what we said we were going to set out to do? What What’s your take on where we stand with collaboration as a whole?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:07:00:18

Sure. So I think I wish I had a lot of our what we see and our gut feeling and our professional intuition that this answer comes from. And I think as we look at where we are now. So the grant makers for effective organizations has a really nice definition for collaboration. For grant makers, working collaboratively means deepening relationships with partners and putting a common vision ahead of individual organizations or agendas.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:07:31:18

I think actually it’s the same definition for grant seekers as grant makers, but I share that definition to start my answer, because I think that for a great deal of what we experienced as a world, as a community for the pandemic, those did feel like they were in sync, common vision ahead of individual organizations or agendas. And so it felt like there was a lot of great examples happening, things that were different, not business as usual.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:08:00:20

Thinking outside of the box. And as 23 2023 has progressed. And now here we are in November, it feels like maybe it’s a little less of that shared definition and a little bit back to some of the original. How did the relationships happen? What was RFP driven? What was funder led, what was money driven? Instead of some of the really unique solutions we were seeing just over the last few years.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:08:26:25

So that’s what I’m thinking in terms of the definition. Where is it a little different now?

Brad Ward 00:08:30:13

And Cesar, you know, coming from your data, from your research that you all have your fingertips on at at candid, I guess, you know, maybe the best way to frame this up and you said this last week is just that. So maybe it’s backslid, maybe it’s dipped, maybe so. But we also were at an all time peak. Right.

Brad Ward 00:08:50:19

So how how elaborate on that a little bit And help us understand maybe where it really is in comparison to what happened during the pandemic.

Cesar Del Valle 00:09:00:18

Yeah, you know, candid as a data driven organization, it’s difficult to speak about something that’s a bit more amorphous, like collaboration. That’s not easily quantifiable. So I do think that, you know, just as Diane was sharing, this is a lot of kind of anecdotal and personal information as far as what we’re seeing. When I think about collaboration, for instance, I was kind of going back to the proverb that I think many of us have heard on If you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together.

Cesar Del Valle 00:09:26:28

And for me, part of what’s within that proverb is the complexity of collaboration. It’s that it actually brings additional complexity, and hence it doesn’t allow you to move as fast, perhaps, as we would like, but it really allows us to achieve much more. And back to the geo definition that Diane shared, which is really about aligning values and goals.

Cesar Del Valle 00:09:47:18

And so I think that it’s it’s we’re using spikes and we’ve seen perhaps some backsliding as pertains collaboration, because I do think that coming out of the pandemic, coming out of the George Floyd murder, where we had a lot more social reckoning, there was a greater not only opportunity but need for collaboration. We were forced to really change, modify and work together because of the newness of the situation.

Cesar Del Valle 00:10:13:04

And I think with that came an aspect of collaboration fatigue. Again, when you are increasing complexity, there is an aspect of fatigue. So I think in certain ways we backtracked a bit again for ourselves that planted our principle initiative this year has really been on the centralization and standardization of demographic data for behavior change of this kind, or trying to move the needle towards best practices and standardization.

Cesar Del Valle 00:10:37:16

This is really a multi-stakeholder ecosystem approach that we’re taking towards collaboration. So I think that, you know, in the startup world, we often talk about fall in love with the problem and not with a solution. You know, don’t ever be overly focused on the service that you’re providing or the product that you’re creating to address an issue, but rather focus on the issue itself.

Cesar Del Valle 00:10:57:22

I think what’s led to success that we’ve seen in our and this specific initiative, the Demographics state candidate initiative, is that we have been focusing on aligned problems that we see in the sector. There’s not only fatigue as it pertains to collaboration. There’s a tremendous amount of survey fatigue on the nonprofit side. There’s a tremendous amount of burden that’s placed on the nonprofits to continuously share more and more information.

Cesar Del Valle 00:11:21:23

You know, we’ve seen data that’s come out where 70% of foundation executives are saying they want to decrease the reporting burden on their grantees. And then we see data where over 50% want to increase the collection of demographic data. So there’s some complexities there and some challenges we have to address. I think that if we keep shared values, shared goals in mind, then we can really construct more stakeholder collaboration that can lead us towards greater good.

Cesar Del Valle 00:11:48:21

And I’m a big believer in the fact that we can go much further together.

Brad Ward 00:11:52:14

Well, I want to dig in about who I thought that was really, really evident when you were saying about funders want more demographic information, which means they need more information. And then at the same time, they’re trying to reduce the burden. So. Well, let’s dig in and a little bit about, you know, who ultimately is even expecting us to do collaboration.

Brad Ward 00:12:11:18

Why are we expecting that collaboration is to be done? Who’s it between? Is it funder to funder? Is it funder to grantee Grant? You know, I think all of that plays into this. And maybe on that particular note, Andrea, I was thinking about, you know, trust based philanthropy, which is probably the one of the most influential, and I apologized for added priming for this, but but I’m going there now, so but but I think of trust based philanthropy is something that North America and particularly Canadian foundations have probably been some of the best at in in our community philanthropy space and, you know, your leadership, when I think about that from the North American, they’ve

Brad Ward 00:12:47:16

always done a fabulous job of approaching the problems from a data perspective, but also from a partner engagement strategy. So maybe I’m curious from you, what are the bright spots that you are seeing? And so so, you know, these are commented about the fatigue they had talked about, You know, is is it a potential backslide or are we, you know, back in the off of where we were?

Brad Ward 00:13:08:24

I would love to just hear from you the bright spots that you do know are either gaining traction, they’re elevated. The idea of collaborations, anything you want to call out. And it can be both on the it could be either on the Canadian side or what you’re seeing globally with the Global Fund for Community Foundations. However, you want to take a take a crack at that.

Andrea Dicks 00:13:28:14

I’m sure I do want to answer, though, the question about are we backsliding? Because it is. I am. I’m an optimist and I do not think that we are backsliding. So I do want to explain why a number of years ago I was doing some learning, some professional development learning, and an organization called the Inner Activist would often use the phrase meet the moment like how are you showing up to meet the moment?

Andrea Dicks 00:13:54:14

How are you acting in a way and supporting community in a way that meets the moment? And I just I think it’s a beautiful frame and I think that during COVID, we were community foundations in particular were called on just to meet the moment in a very different way. And we did that collaborative fully. We stood up for we supported community and we stood by community when things were very difficult.

Andrea Dicks 00:14:19:16

And in Canada, we did that in Colaba Station, we did that in collaboration with our network. We did it in collaboration with other organizations. We did it in collaboration with the government of various levels to the tune of, you know, a $350 million fund that we were one of the administrators for a $400 million fund, that we were one of the administrators for.

Andrea Dicks 00:14:42:00

And so that is a way in which we are using the skills, the experience that we have to meet the moment in a way that we had never been called on to do before. And and so now, you know, are we being is is the moment back the way it was like and this is the thing that I think is different.

Andrea Dicks 00:14:58:23

I don’t think we can ever say that we’re going back to 2019 or going back to 2018 or whatever. I think that community has fundamentally changed. And therefore, how we meet the moment for community now in 2023 and beyond is fundamentally different. And so it’s not that collaborations have backslid. They’ve changed because they have to meet the moment.

Andrea Dicks 00:15:24:09

And so some of the bright spots that we’re seeing are because of how the moment has changed. You know, there is a crisis here in Canada when it comes to housing and affordability, when it comes to inflation, when it comes to economic security, when it comes to belonging, and how you feel connected to your community. And so there are many different layers.

Andrea Dicks 00:15:48:23

And I know that this happens all around the world. And so I think we are responding differently. We are being called on to collaborate differently. And and some of those bright spots, I think, are actually taken from the Global South, are taken from other countries and communities that have innovated because they had to, not necessarily because the moment called for it.

Andrea Dicks 00:16:13:27

And so I think we have to look at impact investing. We have to look at social finance more broadly in philanthropy in Canada as one example. So a great like how deep do you want me to go into these spotlights, Brad? Should I just highlight them? You know.

Brad Ward 00:16:30:05

Like, Oh, I like.

Andrea Dicks 00:16:31:16

What I’m saying. You like, I think that, you know, one of the crises that we often speak about is the gender inequality that exists around the world, including in countries like Canada. And so at Community Foundations of Canada, we have a program that we are working, and I saw some community foundations from our network are on this call.

Andrea Dicks 00:16:53:08

We have a program in which we are working with community foundations to not only do the things that we are very good at, like grantmaking and putting that out into the world to support gender equality but to change our own practices. So how are we changing our policies? How are we changing our approaches internally to our employees with our governance, etc., to ensure that we are creating gender equality in our own actions?

Andrea Dicks 00:17:18:24

Also, what about our investments? So this is the impact investing side of things. If we distribute here in Canada, 5% of our assets on an annual basis is the requirement. What about the other 95%? And there’s tons of incredible examples of organizations that are putting those assets to good work through our communities for Gender Equality program. We said to community foundations, We will incentivize you to do this.

Andrea Dicks 00:17:44:13

So for every dollar that we give you to grants out into the community, towards gender equality, you have to put an equal or more, if you like, investment into a a screened portfolio, an impact investing portfolio, like you pick your social finance tool by utilizing a gender lens. And we expected 8 to $10 million would move into that investment pool.

Andrea Dicks 00:18:11:18

Over $100 million has been moved by community foundations in Canada in the last few years into you gender lens screens or impact investments. And that is tremendous and we’re not even done. And so I think there’s so many bright spots that show up in terms of both the tools and the techniques, but the values in which we are leading with because we’re really trying to show up for community with the recognition, a community has fundamentally changed and therefore we need to also.

Brad Ward 00:18:40:13

A lot of really great best practices. And there are a lot of examples of sort of the shift that’s taking place to ready folks. All of this is about collaboration because you’re you’re co-investing, you’re identifying a different approach to the work collectively and collaboratively and adopting those as principles. So a lot of really great examples are. Thank you so much, Andrea.

Brad Ward 00:19:03:07

Maybe flipping that a little bit on its head, I thought maybe Diane, you could talk about because to me that a lot of those were funder led called coalitions and collaborations. What about for the nonprofits? What about the grant seekers? And you could talk about it between nonprofit, the nonprofit nonprofit, the Funder. I just want to maybe get down to the granular level now, the actual partners doing the work and hear what your thoughts are about what you’re seeing.

Brad Ward 00:19:29:29

They’re thinking about in terms of best practices or awareness of examples that are worth taking a look at.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:19:36:23

Sure. And what I wrote down, as I heard Andrea say, meet the moment I wrote down my favorite agile value and so agile as a way of thinking about project management. The fourth value in the Agile Manifesto is responding to change over following a plan, and it’s a label Capital Agile, that many nonprofit charitable organizations would not have previously put on their organization, on their teams.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:20:02:25

And I think one of the really great things we’ve seen, Andrea, I’m an eternal optimist too, so I’m like, I’m jammin on that. And so one of the things that we’ve seen happen is that so many nonprofits now have countless examples of how they have successfully responded to change over following a plan. And many of them actually they’ve been highlighted in our Agile summit that we partner with founded on.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:20:27:05

So thanks again, founding team for that. But what those examples are highlighting is where funders are really helping them be creative in meeting their need, responding to the moment, responding to change. And so there are tons of literally on the ground examples. One of my favorite that we just added to the summit recordings is the Metropolitan. So Girls Inc of Metropolitan Dallas worked with the Capital One Foundation, and not only did they get funding to think about how to dig deeper into their agile way of working to expand their programs, but then they also got in-kind support for their agile coaches to come into the organization.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:21:06:16

I got their annual report in my email this week and it’s just amazing to hear that story and it’s a totally different sort of collaboration in partnership than you would normally expect, but it was helping them to take that agile value and really double down on it and say, What else can we do? How could we do this differently?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:21:23:15

So that is one of my new favorite examples of something that just was completely different than what we were seeing. It wasn’t RFP driven, it wasn’t FOIA driven. It wasn’t having to call it convening to see what was going to happen. So it was organic for both. So it’ll be interesting to see how that could be replicated with other funders, other communities.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:21:43:19

I think another example is looking at different organizations that are engaging in attending, speaking at events hosted by like the Collective Impact Forum or similar big picture movements. And I think that those sort of conversations are, to me, while not necessarily always about money or direct programs, even just the conversations are really positive examples because they show a change in some of that power differential equation that there might be in collaborations.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:22:17:01

So yeah, lots of great examples, but the agile ones I think are actually some of my favorite because they’re tied to one other one, a nonprofit, a really large LGBTQ community center, where they have to do behavioral health services, mental health services, completely virtual, right on a dime. And when you have all those government funders and the very strict we give you this, you deliver units type funders, how all of a sudden could they put up?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:22:44:04

They look like superhero phone booths, right? Hyper compliant ways to deliver services yet have everybody be telehealth supported. Those are the sort of moments too, that I think they started and that flexibility started to support the Agile way of working during the pandemic. And we still do hear some of those really great flexible interactions that we just want to hear more of.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:23:11:15

Right? Those are the stories that keep us all going. You don’t need caffeine when you have stories like that to fuel your work every day. So I think there’s some really great examples and they come from the I think they all come down to that value, though, responding to change over following a plan.

Brad Ward 00:23:25:24

And I’ve been talking a lot about embracing change lately. So way to where to tout that when I think Cesar taking a lot of this. You know one thing you had the vantage point of obviously looking internationally but but you’ve also seen this play out because of the work of Candide at a very local level, super hyper local.

Brad Ward 00:23:43:25

And so I would love to just dig in just a little bit into any thoughts you have around balancing these dynamics of how we bring both funders and nonprofits to the table to collaborate and ultimately acknowledging probably right up front the balance of the dynamics of a power balance that we that that Diane referenced there. Any any specifics you want to kind of hone in on that help us kind of think through some of that.

Cesar Del Valle 00:24:13:24

Yeah, definitely. Happy to share a couple of examples that come to mind and I’d love Diane’s framing on who needs copy when you have stories like that. I think that’s lovely and beautiful. That’s definitely, I believe, why we’re all committed to the sector. So again, I alluded to the demographics, the expanded initiative, and when I was thinking about what successful collaboration is all about for us, we oftentimes talk about ensuring that we are being responsive and not prescriptive, which tends to be far too often found in the sector.

Cesar Del Valle 00:24:41:09

So I completely agree with what’s been shared thus far about responding to the moment, and I’ll share that when we were experiencing some of the challenges and standardized demographic data, we were living the pain points as well. So as the The Post, the racial reckoning that we experienced right after the pandemic, I think there is a greater appetite to actually have racial equity grantmaking agendas.

Cesar Del Valle 00:25:07:05

And as the data partner of a lot of grantmaking institutions, a lot of funders are coming to us and asking, well, what demographic data do you have on our portfolio or our communities so we can start to track diversity metrics and progress to tables as that that increase in desire to add demographic data was was increasing. We were experiencing the pain ourselves as a nonprofit.

Cesar Del Valle 00:25:25:15

So candidate is supported by a lot of foundations ourselves. Last year alone, we were asked to fill out over 100 different demographic surveys, and that means that we had to slice and dice our data in a multitude of ways because different funders were asking different questions in different manners. And we also saw a role that we could play as it pertains to best practices, because we have funders that support our work that we greatly admire and appreciate their support.

Cesar Del Valle 00:25:48:16

But for instance, they were asking for our staff to be broken down into emails, email, binary and pretty much making invisible our non binary staff. So we saw that there was a role to play there and we saw that there was a great appetite for certain foundations to really lean into this work. And to your point, Brad, really recognize the power imbalance that exists with regards to grantees and grantors.

Cesar Del Valle 00:26:08:01

As far as local examples, specifically in California, we’ve been working with the California Endowment, the Irvine Foundation, the Weingart Foundation. They came together recognizing that they had a large amount of grantee overlap. And so why do you work individually when they can collaborate and do so much better while again taking a very nonprofit centric approach to the work that they’re doing?

Cesar Del Valle 00:26:26:18

So we’ve been working with them to run some data, to look at what’s been contributed and then do really targeted communication is on a sub segmenting their grantee communities so that we can ensure that we’re collecting the adequate amount of information, particularly race, ethnicity and gender, for the leadership and the Board of Organizations to help to then increase the amount of funding.

Cesar Del Valle 00:26:48:10

You know, I think Andrea’s been sharing a lot more about gender inequality, inequities, and there needs to be grantmaking strategies in order to address some of these issues. And again, without the demographic data, we won’t be actually able to move the needle or at least track progress to goals there. So I think what we’re seeing with funders in certain communities, the three that I’ve mentioned, others that we work with that are recognizing the time that it takes to actually fill out some of these forms are starting to do micro grants of $250 so organizations can actually be renumeration for their time.

Cesar Del Valle 00:27:17:19

And I think we’re starting to really see some spikes on organizations that are willing to over invest, change behaviors and modify the approaches that they’ve done in the past in order to really show up in a better way for their communities. And taking this very nonprofit centric approach, I think is what really finds what we really find inspiration in.

Cesar Del Valle 00:27:35:28

And that’s what our primary focus has been as we have been building this initiative and as we have been building it. I completely agree with Diane. I think agility has been a key to that. And for us, agility takes on a couple of pieces. It really means iterative iteration based on feedback. So it’s multistakeholder or perspective that we have to be understanding the nonprofit experience.

Cesar Del Valle 00:27:57:09

What are the elevating to us around how they would like to see modifications on our products and services. Also ensuring that we are marrying that with what grant makers are seeking for, again, their unique grantmaking strategies. But if we’re not listening, if we’re not engaging and soliciting feedback, and if we’re not actually making modifications based on that feedback and being agile, then again, then we’re falling back into that prescriptive manner where we’re pushing a solution rather than responding to one that the sector actually needs.

Brad Ward 00:28:26:19

Caesar Thank you for that. I think all of this goes to speak, though, that we have to have a common agenda and we have to have a clear shared vision, right? A clear shared mission of what we’re trying to come together on. It’s really easy in a crisis. And so that that the what we’re all working towards is it’s just right in front of us when that isn’t there.

Brad Ward 00:28:47:08

Andrea, you talked a lot about things that are just like ongoing crises, believe it or not, whether we want to call them that or not. And there is a lot of similarities to what communities are facing. When you mentioned affordable housing, some of the inequities, I guess I would love to just talk a little bit about really honing into your optimism that you that I know you exude everywhere you go.

Brad Ward 00:29:11:19

Talk to us a little bit about where you got to start. What’s the what’s you know, we talked about humblebrag from the beginning, about having people. So where does humility play into this? What is the attitudes in the room and how do people elevate this and feel really good about elevated this over everything else that’s on their plate?

Brad Ward 00:29:31:24

Knowing that they can go further when they’re going together? Would love to just hear some of your thoughts about some of the DNA baked into this that people need to be really taking to heart.

Andrea Dicks 00:29:44:01

Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. There’s two things that are popping into my head as I’m as I’m listening to my fellow panelists here and to your question, Brad, and the two things are about relationships and risk aversion. And so relationships, I think, are the fundamental basis for everything that we do. And I think the reason why collaborations are successful is because people take the time to build relationships in those collaborations so that you are it’s not a tit for tat kind of relationship.

Andrea Dicks 00:30:19:17

It’s a relationship that, you know, one of the comments in the chat is rooted in what’s best for our community and of course we both care about that. So we’re moving forward. And so there’s elements of like, you know, role of affiliation and autonomy that all come within the relationship formulation. Trust is another one. Shared objectives would be other ones.

Andrea Dicks 00:30:43:26

And so I think there’s an element there and, you know, you could probably do an entire webinar, if not week of webinars. On the importance of relationship building and the shared values that underpin those relationships. You know, I think that’s why we have such a positive relationship with found in I’ve had for years is because sure, we have shared values, but we also care about the outcomes in community.

Andrea Dicks 00:31:08:11

And so we’re using that relationship that we’ve built on those shared values to make change in community together. And so there’s an element there that I think we should, if we have time, unpack. But but definitely hold as a key part of this conversation. And then the other piece is risk aversion. And the reason that that is coming to mind is maybe just because of, you know, my experience over the last few weeks in that I’m in a lot of conversations with community foundations, with boards of directors, with teens, where we’re talking about risk.

Andrea Dicks 00:31:42:08

And I think that there is an orthodoxy that currently exists, whether written or not, that risk aversion is central to the nonprofit sector. And I think what we have learned through the experience of COVID, what collaborations help us to do, what those relationships help us to do, is situate risk, not off to the side, but not in the center of every single decision that we make.

Andrea Dicks 00:32:06:27

We can monitor it, we can manage it, but we can also say actually, we’re willing to step around that risk. We’re willing to step through that risk because we believe in the outcome. We believe in the change that is possible. And I think that there’s an interesting intersection between relationships and risk in that relationships can reduce risk potentially depending on what you’re working on together, depending on the collaboration and I don’t think we talk about that enough.

Andrea Dicks 00:32:33:09

I think we we create silos where we talk about the great relationships that we have and then we have a silo where we’re doing our risk management and mitigation work. And I wonder if we were to look, you know, enterprise wide or community wide or organizational wide, how we might bring those together and recognize that there’s opportunity to take more risks together.

Andrea Dicks 00:32:56:24

Right? So, yes, we can go farther together, but but can’t we also do different things? Can’t we leapfrog over some of the the sort of nuts and bolts and get to the end outcome a little bit faster because we’re working together and I don’t think we talk about that a lot, or at least not in the world that I’m part of.

Andrea Dicks 00:33:15:27

It’s all about like the risk aversion and the risk mitigation and and how we’re going to manage that. We really it could be something that helps us go farther, helps us have more impact and helps us build relationships that we haven’t necessarily done in the past.

Brad Ward 00:33:30:25

I think this is why I love this stuff so much, because it harkens back to both the days when I was with the Council on Foundations and we talked a lot about community leaderships moving movement nationally. You know, the two fundamentals that you talked about are just so critical. And it reminds me even all the way back to when I ran a community foundation about the trust and about the relationships and the intimate relationships that we needed to have with our partners so that we could get beyond the surface level conversation of whether we’re doing good or not.

Brad Ward 00:34:01:21

And then with the risk, I felt like I was always resetting the table for how we assumed what risk really was to us in our field. And so thank you for bringing both of those up, because I think those are just critical elements. And I’ve asked the audience, you know, I’d love to know what your critical elements are, too, of what you think will ensure that collaborations will work or not.

Brad Ward 00:34:24:16

But so thank you for for those. Cesar, I see you’re off. Did you want to add anything, comment or respond.

Cesar Del Valle 00:34:31:20

Just to play off of what’s been said? And yes, I still like the the flip side of risk aversion is, of course, risk alleviation. And I think that, you know, the candid staff is really having a conversation with Bay and Paris who’s the chief Stafford Governor West more in Maryland. And he was saying, don’t ever underestimate those that you may inspire as you’re pushing your boulder up the hill.

Cesar Del Valle 00:34:52:16

And so when I think about risk aversion, I’m thinking, for instance, you know, when we were due, as we continue to roll out and make investments in the demographics, do you Candide initiative, a request I keep coming kept coming in was it’s not it’s great that you’re making all this information free, that you’re making it freely accessible to the public.

Cesar Del Valle 00:35:09:14

It would be much better if it’s within my grant management system already, where as an UP program officer, I’m already taking my due diligence and found it was the first to come on as a grant management system vendor and partner in this and they take on some risk and I think that really helps to move the needle with the rest of the sector in the field as well.

Cesar Del Valle 00:35:26:12

So I think that one of the beautiful pieces about collaboration, it’s and let’s not underestimate those that we may be inspiring philanthropy, I think in so many ways is fundamentally risk averse. Some of that comes from just, you know, feelings, very responsibilities that are associated with it. But on the flip side, it is it is risk capital at the end of the day, because if you can demonstrate the efficacy and the impact of an investment in a community, you can really then open up the opportunity for public and federal funding to come and really move the needle on societal issues that we’re facing.

Cesar Del Valle 00:35:56:29

So I just feel like if we’re speaking of risk, to be mindful of how we can play an active role in risk alleviation, not only in thinking about mitigation and how collaboration is really key and an inspiration to many more in the field. And we are doing so well.

Brad Ward 00:36:12:13

I just I really enjoyed this. I mean, why not take risk, right? We’re in the film Tropic Space. I mean, the public sector is responsible. They’re supposed to be accountable to the dollars that they’re spending. That’s a real issue in some places. But but they’re supposed to be accountable. Private sector is really driven by profit and the ability to make a profit.

Brad Ward 00:36:30:00

So philanthropy has this unique space that it plays that I’m not throwing all risk out the window, but there’s a reality that we can fail and we can fail faster to learn from the lessons learned just as much as we do from the failure or the successes. And I think that’s absolutely critical and that’s what we need to continue.

Brad Ward 00:36:49:01

That gets into Dianne’s mode of just the agility that is going to be constantly required of these foundations to respond to change and to be able to adapt. Having a plan and follow through with it is critical, but the ability to adapt that plan as you go is so instrumental. Thanks to all the folks that are sharing their thoughts because I think it’s inspired a lot of thoughts and ideas.

Brad Ward 00:37:11:11

I’m looking at the time ago I kind of wanted to maybe shift a bit, but I didn’t want to jump too quickly without dying. Anything you wanted to say. I’m particularly thinking about those nonprofits, and I’m thinking about how much they’re asked to to collaborate on behalf of funders. So that’s where my head is a little bit. But and I know you navigate that space so well, working both on the funder side and grantee side.

Brad Ward 00:37:35:05

So thoughts or comments.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:37:37:07

Always thoughts, always comments. And so in writing some of my like, what am I reacting to here and thinking about how excited our team of writers get when they open a portal and they see that it’s found in True Story, right? They’re like, We know what to expect. Okay, it wasn’t just a sound and plug, but what is the point of that is that those portals didn’t exist when I was a funder used to ask, Oh my goodness, the number of trees that write social impact grants ten copies of all the things in the mail.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:38:07:04

You’re like, Oh, but the efficiency that’s there makes it so that too many nonprofits, funders seem like they’re not a approachable, that they’re kind of like, Oh, they’re behind the portal. I can’t get to the relationships that have been so clearly articulated as important in these collaborative spaces and. So how can funders take it upon themselves to be accessible in the way that is appropriate for their capacity and preference?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:38:30:13

I think that’s an important part of the equation as we think about how does collaboration move from here. But actually it’s a quote from a good friend and colleague at the Northern New York Community Foundation, Max Elsinore said to me once, kind of in passing, and then he actually wrote a blog for us about it, which was generous of him.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:38:49:06

I don’t like to be treated like an ATM. And I’m like, Oh, wait a second, that resonates with me, but let’s see what you mean to that versus what I mean, because I have teenagers, so I go to the ATM because the wallet’s empty. They needed money for school, right. And just disappears and then you need more. So you go, So what did Max mean when we sat down to talk about what what does it mean to not treat a funder like an ATM?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:39:11:08

It means on the thicker side, on the nonprofit, the charitable side, to not only be transactional, to try and reach out, to try and have more than, here’s my debit card, I need more grant money. So as I think about today’s conversation in the how do we feel about risk, how do we feel about the relationships? I think the relationships are where we could all double down more.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:39:32:09

Both sides have work to do because the tech efficiency has made for some funders it easier to not prioritize the relationship work and for nonprofits, it’s made it a little easier to sit back and without meaning to treat funders like an ATM. So the tech is amazing and efficient for all. But I think it actually, if we’re not really cognizant of it, keeps the relationships that we’ve heard from interns either about it could make it even harder for us to focus on that best practice.

Brad Ward 00:40:03:27

I think it takes both, I think. And then that’s what you’ve elegantly stated here, is just, look, the reality is as funders, we could we can be irrelevant and still exist. That’s the flaw of how this is structured. And so the idea of being transactional and being an ATM by nature, that’s probably our basis. So to really be transformational, you have to lean into these types of tools and these leverages.

Brad Ward 00:40:30:25

And, you know, when I started working at a Clinton Foundation, Tech was used to administrate or at the peak, like that’s what it was really all about, was administrating the operations and the efficiencies that you could get from an organizational operations. Today, tech is all about enabling community philanthropy in ways that, to your point, have have shifted in a ball.

Brad Ward 00:40:52:06

And I have I mean, it’s no secret we’re all here without that. And so I’m very pleased that it has taken seriously that opportunity to work with with the field, work with the sector to identify how we can actually enable some of this opportunity with technology. But all of this tech will never replace the deep relationships that ultimately move the needle.

Brad Ward 00:41:14:24

It just it just creates a patient and operational and organizational excellence along the way. And so that transformation is is critical and responding to change by enabling new technology and new tools to be put into place in comes full circle. So how are you, Diane? You did my job way better than I. Probably the most you found that was listening.

Brad Ward 00:41:36:24

But let’s let’s kind of, you know, we’ll move forward this conversation and really get some last minute thoughts from each of you. I got to scroll back because I said that to Diane. And so I’m going to start with. Diane, what steps would you like to see funders take to really actually take this collaboration to the next level, particularly for the benefit of the nonprofit partners who ultimately, frankly, need a lot of support and a lot from us right now in these difficult times, they’re they’re more strained and stressed than we ever will be as funders if we’re truly honest with ourselves.

Brad Ward 00:42:16:15

And so I think I want you to put us to task. And then I want Andrea and Caesar. I know Andrea will bring her optimism and Cesar will bring his realism. So let’s start with Diane. Like, what are the next steps? How do we get better? How do we actually follow through with what we stated we were going to do and what we believed was the trend in the right direction?

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:42:37:27

So I think it’s actually looking far back way pre-pandemic and thinking about how frequent like funder forums used to be that the in-person ones and everybody would be there and to have a coffee and the pastries and all those things. But you’re in a room together and talking about it. And as much as you know, I live in a rural community, I love Zoom, but the accessibility to have conversations is really different now than it was before.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:43:05:18

Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But what I find is that those in-person inner community meetings, which are still happening in some communities, are 100% and we love it. We tell everyone prophet to prioritize going. And the reason I think that they’re so important and I wanted to like bring that up as the what do I think should happen is that that is the space that helps small medium nonprofits who might struggle with relationship building that’s much more comfortable for them to be in that room, to be with maybe other peers, to not be nervous about bothering a foundation over email or a phone call.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:43:40:02

But that gives them the space to really practice relationship building in a meaningful way that could help them up their game, up what they have for impact. Think about the next collaboration. And so I think to just we love our tech, but to think really about how to engage community and some of the really great older school methods, again, I still pick up the phone.

Diane H. Leonard, GPC 00:44:00:22

I do, I love it, but those funder forums used to be such a great connecting point. And so what can those look like now? And like I said, I know they’re happening in some spots. I think though that they could return in others.

Brad Ward 00:44:14:17

Thank you, Diane. I Appreciate that greatly. Andrea Caesar I’ll let one of you come off mute or both of you and I’ll tackle it from there. But love to hear your thoughts about how we’re going to hone in on this being successful.

Andrea Dicks 00:44:30:13

Sure. Yeah. I think that that sort of stuck is sticking in my head through this conversation is is thinking about how as funders, we need to change. And so maybe it’s not the fundings or the grantees, maybe it’s us. And and I think about like the long history of changing to multi-year funding of that request. I think about the long history of changing to operational funding that project based on day.

Andrea Dicks 00:45:02:20

And I am inspired by some of the work that is happening across community foundations and philanthropy to really embrace that. You know, the work of the equality fund is transformational. The work that, you know, I see Laurie from the London Community Foundation is here and the work that they are doing around changing the trajectory of lives and in the community in London through housing as one example is is is about building relationships and about changing themselves first.

Andrea Dicks 00:45:34:18

And so I’m inspired to learn alongside all of the other funders and to think about how we show up differently for community like we did in the pandemic. Because we can do that. We can do all these things, but we choose not to. And so operational funding, multi-year funding, building relationships like all of that I think is part of it.

Andrea Dicks 00:45:56:00

And there’s such bright spots out there that exist that are leading this work. You know, there’s one organization that’s in on the continent, in Africa, and they they say to funders, you can apply to fund us. We don’t apply to be funded by you. And that is about changing the relationship. And I’m sure they say it in less of a sassy tone and what I just said.

Brad Ward 00:47:00:22

Some of the most creative and innovative and authoring guru investments that I got to be of when I was working with the Community Foundation were ones that we went out and found because their heads were down. They were so busy just doing the work and doing it on shoestring budgets or compartmentalizing the fundraising, do enough to survive and then wait till you were at breaking point.

Brad Ward 00:47:21:24

Do it again. Like it was so interesting to hear you say that. I love that we don’t go looking for funding. He can apply to Ultra. That’s just brilliant. I want to give a shout out to one of our attendees. Where was it? Beth Roberts. She was calling or calling it. She was talking to from from Nebraska. She made the comment that trust through layers of transparency and aligned purpose and follow through.

Brad Ward 00:47:45:18

And I’ll just reiterate the idea of transparency follow through. I love those comments. You so thank you. About Cedar. I’m going to give you the last word, if you can give it to me in a minute or two. I would love to hear what you want us to walk away with again, how we’re going to get this work done and be successful and what we have to hold true.

Cesar Del Valle 00:48:05:00

Thank you. Yeah, I’ll try to be very selective. And there’s a lot of beauty in what’s been shared thus far already. And I do love the the anecdote of trying to flip the script on you can apply to find us. And we have been working, for instance, with the LGBTQ organization that was recently extended an opportunity to receive funding and before accepting the funds, they actually put the question back to the Grand Tour as to why are you actually looking to fund us and how is your work actually aligned with our mission.

Cesar Del Valle 00:48:29:19

I think there’s a lot of work that nonprofits can do. However, I appreciate that. Andrea, you by saying that a lot of change needs to happen on the grant maker side. You know, the question on just how can we see a nonprofit and funding organizations take further collaboration in the future? I think it does fundamentally begin with recognizing the inherent power imbalances that exist.

Cesar Del Valle 00:48:48:09

You know, we speak about partnership a lot, but if one person has control and sway over capital flows, it’s not a partnership whatsoever. So I think it really starts with the recognition of that power imbalance. And I know that we spoke in a bit about trust based philanthropy thus far in society. The executive director there recently released a blog, and one of the things that she was saying around trust based philanthropy, it is that it is the area of work of aligning power, consciousness and equity across organizational culture structures, leadership and practices so that we can always do more.

Cesar Del Valle 00:49:20:02

There’s been examples shared about the impact have by looking at your mission related and program related investments, especially through an endowment perspective. The hundreds of millions of dollars that you spoke about, that’s fantastic. It’s still a sliver of grant making institutions that are looking at their endowment to actually move the needle in a positive way. So I think there’s a lot there.

Cesar Del Valle 00:49:38:29

But as we’ve spoken to already, you know, view at Nonprofit has said it really well. And very simply, if you want to be beyond transactional and transformational, it comes down to, my God, what is this multiyear general operating dollars? And if we can move the needle in that direction, I think it’ll be a huge benefit to the sector.

Cesar Del Valle 00:49:55:16

And that’s really the essence of collaboration, is trust, as many others have already shared more.

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