What Funders & Investors Really Think About Partnering

Woman at ATMSomething profound is keeping socially-minded investors and funders from the impact they sense is possible.

In our upcoming Conversation series – starting next Wednesday (details below) – we are going to get past that “something profound,” once and for all.

And we are going to start by talking about one of the most mis-used terms in the world of social investment: “Partner.”

As we’ve discussed in other posts on this subject, when someone in real life says business partner or life partner or dance partner – we get an immediate image of both parties giving what they’ve got, becoming part of something greater than the sum of the parts.

But when it comes to social investing, “partnership” describes an arrangement that bears no resemblance to those real partnerships. For the most part, “funding partners” are silent financial backers who require assurances that the recipient will use the funds in the manner they were intended. And for their part, the recipient prays that the backer will keep his/her nose out of the actual work to be done.

Imagine (without smirking) a marriage based on one spouse requiring assurances and the other hoping their spouse will just shut up and leave him/her alone. Imagine Fred and Ginger dancing to this arrangement. Imagine Larry Page and Sergey Brin, or Ben and Jerry.

Beyond the absurdity, the sad reality is that these rigid, transactional arrangements leave the best stuff on the table. And when it comes to making our world a better place, we have neither time nor resource to waste through the absurdity of this outdated construct.

Imagine instead what would be possible if those financial arrangements became real partnerships – where everyone brought their best selves to the table, sharing who they are and what they have.

Imagine what would be possible if the norm in the funding arena was to expect partnerships of peers, identifying mutual end goals and reaching for those goals together.

This line of thinking has particular meaning for Creating the Future, as these are the kinds of partnerships we are seeking for our own efforts to develop plans and ramp up programs.

In our exploration so far, one thing is already clear: We are unwilling to perpetuate “partnerships” that go counter to the future we want to see – a future where people are valued more than money. A future where money is seen for what it is – one among many means, and never an end unto itself.

We also know that we are not alone; that this thought has been nagging at many in the funding and social investment realm. We know there are others of like spirit, who are not only asking the same questions, but who are also wondering who else is wondering…

And so we will begin by having conversations, live online, for anyone to watch and participate in. The questions that will begin our journey are simple, and we know they will lead to answers (and more questions) that we cannot yet imagine. That alone will be worth the effort.

  • What might more authentic and complete “funding relationships” make possible – for each of the parties, for the projects they embark upon, and for the world they intend to impact?
  • What might be the result for our communities if there were true partnership (vs. purely financial arrangements)? What difference might that new-and-improved relationship make, and for whom?
  • What kinds of relationships would make that future not just possible, but likely? In that community we want to create, what are the relationships we want to see – not just between “funders and grantees” or “investors and investees” but between everyone?
  • For those relationships to be possible in the social investment realm (and the foundation and philanthropy realms), what would each party need to feel? Need to believe? Need to have? Need to get out of the relationship?

As we enter into these conversations, there is only one thing we know for certain: There is something profound keeping socially-minded investors and funders from the impact they sense is possible. And we are going to do our best to get past that, once and for all.

As with all our meetings, we encourage you to not just watch, but participate.  Subscribe to this blog to be notified of the location of each of these sessions – they will be streamed live online right here at this blog.  At those posts, you will find instructions for tweeting your own thoughts and questions. Details will be at those invitation posts, so subscribe now!

Upcoming Funder/Investor Roundtable Conversations
(with Hildy Gottlieb for Creating the Future)

Phil Cubeta and Alexandra Peters
(Link will take you directly to that event)
Wednesday, June 12th
10am Pacific (NA) / 1pm Eastern (NA) / 6pm BST (Europe)

Sidney Hargro and Debra Jacobs
Wednesday, June 19th
11am Pacific (NA) / 2pm Eastern (NA) / 7pm BST (Europe)

* * * * *

Phil Cubeta is a veteran in the world of financial planning, having spent over a decade as Chief of Staff for the Nautilus Group (a service of New York Life) providing estate, business, and philanthropic strategies to affluent clients through 200 of the company’s top agents. Phil’s current serves his profession at The American College, where he holds the Sallie B. and William B. Wallace Chair in Philanthropy and is responsible for the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy curriculum.

Alexandra Peters joined her first board 32 years ago, became chair a year later, and got hooked on the possibilities for changing the world through nonprofit governance. 13 boards and 5 more chairs later, Alexandra has become a student of every aspect of governance, with a keen interest in the relationships between organizations and donors. We are lucky to have Alexandra as a highly engaged member of Creating the Future’s own board.

Debra Jacobs is CEO of the Patterson Foundation – an innovative funding institution built largely around building effective partnerships. Following a career in banking, Debra now leads an organization that has no grant cycles and no giving designations. Their charter mandates simply that they seek possibilities for good. The result is a highly flexible foundation, that sees its role as building meaningful relationships towards the goal of “Creating New Realities.”

Sidney Hargro is the Executive Director of Community Foundation of South Jersey, one the newest community foundations in the United States, where the foundation sees its role as “a community convener for the issues that matter in South Jersey.” Prior to joining the South Jersey foundation, Sidney managed innovation strategy and social impact evaluation for the Columbus Foundation in Columbus, Ohio. We are lucky to have Sidney as a highly engaged member of Creating the Future’s own board.

Photo Credit:  Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela via Wikimedia Commons

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