By Andy Carroll, ASF
One of the themes Nan talked about was that foundations are leaders because they set agendas and set directions. An example she offered was that her foundation is concerned when they receive multiple proposals for the same work, or same kinds of work, from different organizations. For example, in one grant cycle the foundation received seven applications for financial literacy work in its rural community.
The week prior, Scott Brazda of The Stuller Family Foundation e-mailed me to ask about guidance for foundations that see redundancy among nonprofit work and wish to encourage certain grantees to merge or collaborate. I offered a little guidance and recommended Scott post to ASF’s Discussion List.
But Scott’s post—and an influx of great responses from fellow ASF members—came later. Back to Nan.
A few moments later in our interview, Nan mentioned a colleague named Scott Brazda as “a visionary.” She said Scott was concerned about redundancy in their community and was trying to figure out ways to address it. Nan said she wanted to think more about the issue of redundancy and work with Scott and others on it.
I then realized Nan and Scott are both in Louisiana, and it turns out they are good colleagues.
Right after my interview with Nan, I connected Nan’s and Scott’s thoughts and actions to the narrative about small foundation leaders that is emerging from the Leadership Initiative. The narrative begins with passion and hunger for knowledge. Leaders in small foundations are driven to gather knowledge and information, especially about particular issues or problems. They analyze the problem and generate possible solutions, and, in doing so, point the way for others.
Some leaders then act on the knowledge and potential solutions and step out, speak out, organize, mobilize, advocate.
I realized this is exactly what Nan and Scott are doing. They pay careful attention to the information they gather as foundations—the pattern of redundancy and complementary work they see. They chew on this, driven to keep thinking and do something. They are hungry for solutions. Nan and Scott are probably engaging a number of people in their community to help them think.
Few organizations other than foundations have the perspective to notice redundancy, inefficiency, and complementary services across nonprofits. And Nan and Scott stand out as people who focus on this issue and “run it to ground.” They ask questions and desire to make a difference.
They are leaders.
Have any of you broached the topic of nonprofit mergers or collaborations? What lessons can you share?
Join us for a conference call, A Foundation’s Role in Nonprofit Mergers and Partnerships, on May 30.
Senior Program Manager Andy Carroll, lead staffer on ASF’s Leadership Initiative, writes resources, designs workshops, and facilitates seminars for ASF members. Andy has 25 years of experience in nonprofit organizations, and he enjoys talking with members about their questions, interests, passions, and plans for making a difference.