By Lou Beccaria, Ph.D., Phoenixville Community Health Foundation
The practice of effective philanthropy involves a team approach no matter how you look at it. On one hand are the philanthropic groups with the financial and other resources (such as board and staff experience, expertise, and time) necessary to make things happen. On the other are the nonprofit, community benefit organizations with the programmatic and service delivery wherewithal to get the job done. One without the other is fruitless.
The nexus of these entities is what makes philanthropy meaningful and effective. This tag-team approach, as I call it, should be at the heart of philanthropy. It is 180 degrees opposite of a much older view of philanthropists holding the power and “graciously and charitably” granting largesse to humble, suppliant grantees.
The keyword for this approach is partnership. This perspective places participating parties on an equal playing field because they are two critical parts of a whole—the whole being getting things done in the pursuit of their respective missions. Philanthropy should never be about exercising power but about the practice of developing partnerships for everyone’s benefit.
Today, Exponent Philanthropy released the latest video in its Philanthropy Lessons series: Philanthropy Lessons: Value Beyond Dollars. It explores what it means for philanthropists to be true partners in funding and giving, bringing more to the table than just money by playing roles as mentors and conveners, supporters and motivators, or sharing their high-level views.
A good example of partnership is a program our foundation initiated some 10 years ago as part of our overall mission to create more access to health and human services for low-income and otherwise vulnerable people in our greater Phoenixville (PA) region. The program is called the Ride for Health Initiative, and it involves a shared partnership of four different entities: We, the funder; the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC), the program manager; the Pottstown Cab Company, the ride providers; and almost 20 nonprofit health and human services agencies that have the clients who have no way of getting to their health and human service appointments in an efficient and timely manner or at all. This program was evaluated by Villanova University under the program evaluation expertise of Dr. John Kelley, a national expert in logic model outcomes research.
Some salient points of the evaluation results were: (a) On average, the program saved client riders almost half a day (3 hours and 44 minutes) compared to taking generally inaccessible public transportation; (b) More than 95% of the riders indicated that they were able to get the rides they needed for critical appointments on the day and time that they needed them; (c) More than 9 out of 10 riders surveyed said the cabs were clean and the cab drivers careful, courteous, and respectful; and (d) For every foundation dollar spent to support the program, over 61 cents of benefit accrued to the rider in terms of savings in transportation time and money they would have spent on generally inaccessible public transportation in the area.
Through the funding and creativity of our foundation, the program management capability of TMACC; the cab and bus rides provided by the cab company; and the client-serving agencies who have the clients needing transportation, it is accurate, and not an exaggeration, to say that this program, with a cost of approximately $65,000 per year and serving between 60 and 90 low-income clients a month with free cab transportation, has proven to be an effective and impactful health access safety net that has become an essential part of the fabric of our greater Phoenixville area service delivery system.
None of these partners working alone could have accomplished what has been done in the name of providing transportation access to health and human services. It has only occurred via this tag-team, partnership approach.
Lou Beccaria, Ph.D., is president/CEO of Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, which seeks to improve the health and quality of life for people in the greater Phoenixville (Pennsylvania) region by increasing access to quality health care services and promoting healthy communities through grantmaking and collaboration with health, civic, business and community partners.