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Collaborating for Success: What we’ve learned

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is committed to sharing insights and learning to support the philanthropic community in our shared effort to break the cycle of poverty. Each quarter, Christine Mitton, PhD, director of knowledge and learning for the foundation, shares a look into how we’re effectively supporting partners through the lenses of our values. 

As a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (SOCF) is guided by the shared core values of compassion, courage, respect, justice and collaboration. Embodying collaboration as a core value means we are called to promote inclusive and compassionate relationships. To do this, we facilitate interactions and networking that empower others for service.

Promoting relationships in these ways within the community plays an important role in our grantmaking and is one way the foundation lives out this important core value. Over the past three years, we have noticed that more than half of our awarded grant requests indicated a need for additional support with collaboration.

How have we met the needs of grantees requesting additional collaboration support? Through grantees’ reflection and feedback, we’ve come to understand that they are seeking purposeful partnership, community connection, perseverance and a strong sense of mission. Read on to learn more about how we promote collaboration with our grantees and partners.

 

Collaboration through purposeful partnership

We have learned that for many, the introductions and networking that the foundation provides are just the first step in their needs for collaboration. For many, our work with our grantees felt like a true partnership, in which the foundation filled gaps in knowledge and context to allow partners to focus on the active work of maintaining relationships.

As one grantee described it, “Understanding partners’ capacity, knowledge and connections can have a profound impact on the quality and quantity of programming output.”

The foundation recognizes that inclusive and compassionate relationships require a flexible space to thrive, and grantees are grateful for that flexibility.

“We will be able to nurture our existing relationships and build new partnerships that will assist us in having a greater collective impact on our target population,” said another grantee. “The environment must be organic for natural partnerships and networking to develop.”

 

Recognizing our place within the community

With the legacy of the nation’s first health conversion foundation, as well as a century of work in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, SOCF has a sense of responsibility and deep commitment to residents and local support systems.

“The connection and introductions to organizations and people in the community was extremely helpful to us and created the opportunity to have a successful project,” wrote one grantee. “We sought to pilot our approach but had some struggles contacting leaders who could recruit. Thanks to (SOCF), we have a solid partner who has authentic connections to families in Central.”

As a strategic funder with a core value of collaboration, we are inspired to contribute beyond our initial investment. The foundation partners with organizations “in a very tangible way,” said one grantee. “Not only offering financial support, but helping to make system change through organizing other funders around the strategy and hosting forums where partners can learn from each other and hear progress made.”

 

Persevere and persist

SOCF is committed to staying at the table, and grantees notice. When working toward long-term and complex goals, strong collaboration and perseverance is vital.

The foundation’s persistence over time is especially important when collaborations confront challenges. Collaborators should not underestimate the value of building relationships prior to starting, said one grantee. That way, there is already a base of trust when unexpected situations arise.

Encouraging grantee partners to persevere requires us to problem-solve and trust our partners beyond one grant cycle. Grantees are cognizant of how SOCF’s investment over time leads to meaningful collaboration.

“The best advice we can give is to remain patient and to continue to plug along,” said one grantee on their work with SOCF. “The longer we do the work, the more partnerships we have successfully developed.”

 

Our mission: This is who we are

As a Catholic ministry carrying forth the mission of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, we view our work as a continuation of their determination to address the needs and rights of those most in need. In our current times, this leads us to a community of committed individuals and organizations directly tackling complex social issues and systems.

“The Foundation believes that homelessness is a social problem that can be eradicated in Cuyahoga County through collaboration, implementation of best practices, and coordination among public systems,” said one grantee.

This concise statement embodies how we live our core value of collaboration: promoting inclusive relationships by facilitating dialogue and coordination.

To us, it is the best way to address complex community issues.

Christine Mitton

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