Last night, we learned of the horrific terrorist attack on innocent people in Nice. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, the injured, and their families.
This past Monday evening, Portland-based mission attendees from the national LGBTQ Jewish Federations Mission to Israel reflected on their powerful experiences with local Jewish leadership from across the community. Over thirty community leaders came together to further the conversation on how Jewish Portland does and could engage the LGBTQ Jewish community. We recognize the large numbers in our community and want to remove any barriers to Jewish involvement. If you are interested in being a part of this conversation please email my colleague, Rachel Rothstein.
Last evening, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with ten mentees in our Pathways program. I have written about these young adults before –they are a special group. We had the chance to talk about their interests in Jewish community and what our community is offering young adults. More important to them, however, is for our Jewish institutions/programs to embrace them for leadership roles based on their ideas, connections, and lens on Jewish life.
Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America (our national umbrella organization) recently wrote about the value of partnerships and collaborations. He highlighted business leader, Marcus Lemonis from the CNBC reality show The Profit and his keys to success. Lemonis often says, “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process, and Product.”
This is an excellent mantra for the nonprofit world, including the Jewish Federation. But Jerry added a fourth P: Partnership.
In the Jewish Federation world, we view our greatest asset to be our people – our volunteers, our donors, our professionals, and our community partners. We also have a focus on process as we work to ensure that many have a voice in decision-making (always a challenge and an area where we can always improve). And, in my mind, “product” equals our “case for giving” – the profound and meaningful work, funded by your generous contributions, that touch so many lives.
When it comes to partnership, the Jewish Federation engages with a network of local and national funders, as well as local, national, and international organizations to leverage and allocate resources that bring programs and services to people. We strive to work in consort with others to maximize the impact within the Jewish community.
Everywhere in the nonprofit world you hear foundations, organizations and consultants talk about the importance of partnerships and collaborations of all sorts. This is a change in just the past 2-3 years, when conferences in the past were solely focused on “collective impact.” This concept acknowledges that most of the problems worth solving require major collaboration and partnerships on a multitude of levels.
You may recall that this year the Jewish Federation announced the first two priority areas in our new “life stages” model approach to funding. We created an open Request for Proposal (RFP) opportunity where organizations could provide their best ideas to impact school-age children/teens and young adults. Beyond great ideas, we were heavily focused on collaboration and partnerships between organizations. We wanted our community to work together!
Richard Marker, a nationally recognized philanthropy consultant defined partnerships in two ways:
“Horizontal partnerships,” a way of defining funding collaboratives, are based on all of the collaborators being on the same side of the table. Even if not everyone brings an equal amount of money, influence, or expertise to that table, the collective is there to have an impact on an external project, program, or organization.
There are also “vertical partnerships,” when a funder or funders and an organization or organizations work together on a project. This is not the same as the currently common euphemism that many funders use to say that all of their grantees are partners. No, a vertical partnership is when there is joint planning on outcome expectations, on funding needs, on long-term exit strategies, and on decision-making. While many funder-grantee arrangements have many of these characteristics, what distinguishes a vertical partnership is the collaboration from the very beginning of the planning and carries all the way through implementation.
Our RFP process was a wonderful learning experience. Our goal, based on Marker’s definitions, was to have proposals with “vertical relationships.” We got very few – and that was not necessarily the fault of the organizations submitting proposals. We gave organizations only five weeks to find partners and to create their proposals. We understand now that this takes more time and that collaboration and partnerships are not so easy. Collaboration requires that some degree of autonomy be surrendered. Funding may not come to just one organization. Upfront agreements on process, decision-making, management, desired outcomes, longevity, and exit strategies all require a seriousness of purpose and clarity. And those are only what must be decided before beginning.
Once begun, any collaboration demands continuedcommitment from all parties. Collaboration works only when the partners continue to invest their time, energy, and wisdom. As Marker writes, “Since there are more players in a collaborative, and any projects worth collaborating on require in-depth attention, collaborations are rarely simple and will call for regular redirection, modification, and reinvention.” This can be a struggle for every organization, including the Jewish Federation.
In addition, group decision-making takes time, energy, willingness, and no small dose of courage and humility. It is much more efficient to do things on your own, at your own pace, with your own ground rules. But the four P’s should be our guide as we involve more people, appropriately work through our processes, enhance the end product, and bring partners around the table.
By working together, we can dramatically enhance our collective impact on Jewish life in Portland and around the world. As we move into our next campaign year and allocations cycle, we will be using the lessons we have learned to enhance the process. First and foremost, we will provide more time for ideas to be developed and partnerships to be established. It is part of our commitment to do what is best to meet and surpass the needs of Jewish Portland and beyond.