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The Power of Partnership

A letter from Executive Director Diana Spencer 

Dear Friends,

In a world where the challenges of poverty have both multiplied and become more difficult, there is power in partnership. When we combine resources, we unlock huge potential to solve some of society’s most pressing issues.

From nonprofits merging to serve more individuals, reduce costs, and streamline processes, to community foundation partners serving as conveners and catalysts of important initiatives, partnerships come in many flavors. They are needed today more than ever.

In this newsletter you will learn about Kansas City-based Vibrant Health’s journey as they acquire another healthcare clinic and continue to grow with partnerships. You will hear community foundation leaders share their insights on establishing partnerships. These endeavors take time, patience, input from all constituents, trust, courage, and most of all, dedication to the project mission, or the North Star.

At the McGowan Fund, we carefully consider outcomes and sustainability for end beneficiaries, as well as sustainability for our nonprofit partners. We know that organizations relying solely on philanthropy for funding are at risk, particularly in times of market downturns and lower investment returns. Relying exclusively on government funding is also a risk. Budgets are strained, and the Department of Health and Human Services is often the first to see these cuts.

Government and philanthropy often have the same goals, targeting the same constituents.  What becomes the larger question is one of partnership initiation. How do we engage elected officials in more partnerships? How do we break out of silos?

Some philanthropies have long supported pilot programs that provide government agencies with proof of successful interventions. The goal is to help successful programs find a place in state budgets so that they can be sustained for the long term. This model is a good example of how to increase public and private partnerships. Federal funding dollars far exceed the cumulative total of philanthropic dollars year over year. Philanthropy and nonprofits have the ability to nimbly design and test solutions. It seems reasonable that philanthropy and elected officials should form stronger partnerships in the shared quest to solve the many challenges in our communities.

As we all strive to improve conditions for millions of Americans and beyond, I believe that the power of public/private partnerships must prevail. The promise of a brighter future is an outcome that we can all embrace as we work together. As Vibrant Health and the community foundations show us, good partnerships help us become part of something bigger.


Diana Spencer
Executive Director