When The Patterson Foundation proposed a partnership specifically for our master’s students to compete for a fellowship at The Foundation after graduation, we did not yet know that we had found a natural partner. Philanthropic partnering is not usually this easy.
We do seem to be seeing more partnerships in philanthropy, with the merger of The Foundation Center and GuideStar that created Candid along with the recent announcement that the MacArthur and Rockefeller Foundations and Omidyar Network were joining forces in impact investing to launch the Catalytic Capital Consortium, and the Hewlett and Ford Foundations were collaborating to start the Public Interest Technology University Network.
But partnerships take a special commitment, which is why they are still the exception, not the rule. Economists will point to the costs involved in negotiations and coordinating collaborative arrangements, and we know how each entity wants to polish its own special identity, as each worries about the distribution of costs and benefits that arise from any joint venture.
Given that what animates philanthropic organizations is mission, and missions often overlap, it is peculiar that we do not see partnerships more often. In the case of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation, I think the fact that we both thrive on partnerships as part of our constitutional makeup and the fact that we are united around the mission of individual and organizational growth through learning made our collaboration evolve quite naturally.
The Foundation’s rigorous yet open-ended approach to philanthropy matches the school’s commitment to thoughtful study, innovation, and collaboration. Our curriculum invites students to ask questions about what they are learning, consider various ways of thinking and doing, and engage with the question of “why philanthropy?”
The interdisciplinary nature of our program sets us apart. Our faculty includes renowned sociologists, economists, historians, psychologists, political scientists, and public affairs specialists, all of whom study philanthropy from diverse angles but contribute to a growing understanding of the “why” question.
The Patterson Foundation approaches its grantmaking through intense strategic alignment with its partners with whom they pursue a common vision. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy generates its research in partnership with associations, universities, corporations, and foundations. And increasingly, as education must find ways to meet students where they are, we are pursuing opportunities to welcome curious, motivated students and professionals in person, online, or through hybrid efforts.
Hannah Saeger Karnei, the inaugural Patterson Foundation Fellow, experienced our master’s degree as a residential student. She says “our program ties together approaches from every sector to challenge and expand the thought horizons.”
Throughout her time at our school, native Virginian Saeger Karnei has asked thoughtful questions and demonstrated creativity in her consideration of philanthropy. She exemplifies the characteristics that we prize in our students: those with adventurous spirits, who apply their learning in diverse communities while expanding their career potential.
Saeger Karnei doesn’t simply accept philanthropy as is, but sees the sector as one that can truly innovate and “think outside the box.” In this venture, she’s found a willing partner in The Patterson Foundation, an organization that “places emphasis on connective tissue, both within their local community and throughout the foundation world,” she says. “I think this year will be a great opportunity to learn more about community building and responsible funding.”
We find the same spirit at The Patterson Foundation. It takes a thoughtful approach to understanding philanthropy and the dynamic processes underscoring the study and practice of the field. As Saeger Karnei mentioned, The Foundation focuses on strengthening people, organizations, and communities. Its emphasis on collaboration with its partners results in diverse initiatives that generate sustainable, long-term impact.
We anticipate wonderful outcomes from this partnership, and look forward to hearing about Saeger Karnei’s work throughout her year.
We also know that our work with The Patterson Foundation will continue to evolve as we invite future graduates of our master’s degree program to apply for this hands-on learning opportunity.
When I visited The Foundation, I was struck by the dynamic and organic partnerships they forge with collaborators in the key areas of activity where they work to make a difference. Even more important was the deep respect the leadership and the board expressed about the privilege, as they saw it, of being able to welcome talented students from our school to represent the next stage and the next generation of innovation in philanthropy.
Clearly, when I saw how much they valued the learning and preparation our students brought and how they were curious to learn with the Fellows, it made perfect sense that this partnership was spanning the geographical distance between Sarasota and Indianapolis. The fact that it is being inaugurated by a Virginian speaks perhaps to the broader potential for its reach.
The future is indeed bright and open to others who are curious to learn the whys and motivated to make a difference in novel, more effective ways. As others like Saeger Karnei consider this unique opportunity, we all stand to learn how education and practice can work together in partnership to improve philanthropy.
Eugene R. Tempel Dean