Beyond the Transactional: Three Ways to Engage in Partnership with Purpose

Beyond the Transactional: Three Ways to Engage in Partnership with Purpose

As a philanthropist, it is an incredible opportunity and a deep honor to listen to grantee partners discuss their challenges and successes. It is always a learning experience and one that I cherish. 

I understand that they’re constantly working under duress, under pressure and are forced by the norms of philanthropy to offer the greatest impact with the least amount of resources. 

While they are bootstrapping it all the time, love for their community is what activates and sustains their singular focus.

I find that to be honorable, noble – and incredibly unfair.

It is not lost on me that our partners are doing the work that I am not doing for my community and my fellow humans. Their hard work and leadership not only targets beneficiaries in need of their services and advocacy but also all of us. 

This work elevates us all.  

If we don’t believe this work will raise all boats, then what we have in front of us, then the massive inequities in income, healthcare, education, and climate change will forever be intractable issues.

If we look at the slow and victorious erosion of women’s sexual reproductive health rights, the few of us with the privilege of resources and access will be able to take care of our and our daughter’s needs. But if we don’t step into the responsibility of our privilege by supporting those front line activists doing the heavy lifting for all women then all women will lose. Their work is my work too, because they are lifting my boat as well.

And it’s our partners that day in and day out work to protect my rights and your rights. 

There are those of us who feel so deeply grateful and want to express our gratitude and our solidarity, who feel the weariness of our partners, as societal problems and inequity only grow. 

Here are three ways to engage in a transformative partnership with organizations working within the community that honor the work done on all our behalf:


1. Engage in reflective giving 

It’s the lifting of all boats that is the critical work done on behalf of all of us. It’s not just about giving  accolades and thank yous to our partners and then feeling good that you have supported the work they are doing. It’s about cleaning your own house. It’s about interrogating our biases and blind spots and reflecting on how to give boldly with our full self, how to give big with courage. 

How do I show up to those I deeply honor and respect? 

You support them beyond the financial, you stand in solidarity and with deep gratitude. 

This process of inner reflection and giving bravely is the roadmap to transformation.


2. Leverage your collective capital 

Philanthropy is driven by a norm that money is the only way to contribute and any other actions are not philanthropic. There is no question that giving money is of the utmost importance and sometimes it is all that is needed; and there can be so much more. 

The transformation and change we seek for community and ourselves will continue to evade us, until we bring our full array of capital beyond the financial to a cause that we want to address with deep purpose. 

Without digging deeper into our different pockets, our forms of capital, our deep wells of lived experience, education, networks, skills, compassion, humility, energy, curiosity, then we will continue on, year after year as all manner of gaps widen. 

We tend to forget that each one of us possesses a wealth and richness of assets beyond our checkbooks. We like to call it our collective capital  and our assessment asks:  “Beyond the financial, what else can you bring to your giving?”


3. Engage in authentic relationship-building

When we give while engaging in community it is a gesture of solidarity of sharing power, building resilience, uplifting the wisdom of others and fostering belonging. It is relational because we are relational beings. We need connection and shared experience in order to feel whole, valued and heard. 

What better way to honor the difficult work of nonprofits than to build trusting relationships.

It is about connecting, respecting our identities across and within community. 

It’s listening without judgment. 

It’s trusting the expertise of lived experience. 

In conclusion – the world is asking a lot of us all.  This work is radical, and an act of selflessness.