Strategic Planning: Learning By Listening
Publication Date: January 3, 2012By Jeremy Nowak, President &
WPF is entering the second phase of our strategic planning process. We expect
to complete the process in the spring, with new grantmaking to begin in July
As I indicated in an earlier post, our initial phase involved a significant
investment of time spent gathering community input. We held twelve facilitated meetings,
involving nearly 150 civic leaders, practitioners, public officials, and
subject-matter experts in areas related to our grantmaking. The information we
gained will factor significantly in the next phase of planning.
Each discussion group was asked to help us think through how we should
approach our role in their respective sector. Their recommendations were
direct, frank, and extremely helpful to our thought process. The following are
common themes that emerged frequently:
- Don’t be afraid to provide leadership, vision,
and direction in Greater Philadelphia. Rally other leaders to the issues.
- Grants we provide to organizations and projects
serve as a credential that can influence others to support their work. This is
a powerful tool that we should use to push for meaningful change.
- When we fund the collection and analysis of
information, it is typically viewed as objective and neutral, which can be
especially valuable for informing public dialogue on difficult or politically
- We have a unique ability to convene people and
organizations on challenging issues and should use it to help establish common
- Few funders are prepared to take the risks and
long-term view required for serious policy and systems change. We have an
established capacity to do so.
- Our balance sheet and risk tolerance uniquely
position us to foster innovation and creativity by supporting new models, both
in terms of substantive practice and business operations.
- We should play a significant role in pushing for
accountability from public institutions, grantees, their boards, and ourselves.
- A shrinking public sector means that many of the
organizations working in our fields of interest will have to adapt and change.
We should help them build capacity and shift their business models.
- Strive for clarity in communications, both
publicly and privately. Articulate what we are trying to accomplish and be
clear with grantees about their role and our expectations of them.
Brief capsule descriptions of each meeting’s results are included
below with a link to more expansive notes from the meeting. Individuals
participated with the understanding that they were speaking without
attribution, so all names have been removed from the notes.
capitalization (artistic and audience-oriented organizations). Conversation focused on common issues with
funding, board leadership, and technology, as well as the intersection of
infrastructure, place, creativity, and art. Participants recommended funding
strategies that support innovation and creativity including: direct support to
professionals, support through fiscal sponsors, and residency spaces. WPF
should also facilitate cross-conversations among funders and collaborations
between organizations. Click here for the full meeting notes.
capitalization (organizations managing facilities or collections). Participants
noted challenges around annual fundraising, high fixed costs associated with
facilities and collections, and financial matters, specifically reserves and
depreciation, and cited the need for flexibility and honesty in conversations
around these issues. WPF can help to educate the sector by clearly
communicating expectations and sharing data and lessons learned. WPF should use
its convening power to foster mentoring relationships among organizations.
Complete notes are here.
education. The dialogue focused on the need to better leverage scarce
resources and make the case for arts education. WPF can collect and communicate
data, support parent/community advocacy and marshal other resources. It can
also act as a convener, both for players across sectors and for community
organizations dedicated to the arts and education. Click here for full meeting notes.
New Jersey. Camden has made some progress in the context of high quality
neighborhood plans, even while significant challenges remain. Conversation
focused on the value of WPF’s role as outside partner and influencer at the
state and local level. Strategies should build from strength around anchor
institutions. WPF should invest in partners who are in it for the long-term. View the meeting notes here.
of the nonprofit and public sectors to serve children, youth, and families.
Discussion revolved around changes in the sector, including consolidations,
public-private partnerships, and leadership transitions. WPF should support
positive changes through exploration of new financial models, systems
integration, and investments in data and data management. WPF should reward effective operations and
develop new leaders. Find the full notes here.
childhood. Much of the discussion was about the evolution of the field,
including consolidation. Participants recommended advancing WPF’s current
investments in data collection, assessment and policy. The early childhood
workforce also needs attention, including recruiting talent, addressing
compensation, and supporting new models of professional development. View the full notes here.
- Food and
sustainability. Discussion captured the potential for regional innovation,
entrepreneurship, and leadership in the food sector. WPF’s investments should
focus on increasing the demand for fresh food, improving the local supply
system, and strengthening markets to bring down costs. Needed efforts include
seed capital for entrepreneurs, research on the impacts of institutional
buying, and support for new business models for local farmers. Meeting notes can be found here.
protection. Much of the discussion was about the connection of land conservation
to the protection of water quality and supply, as well as mitigating the
impacts of climate change in the region.
In light of the changing role of government, the nonprofit and private
sectors need to step up on-the-ground conservation and advocacy efforts. Participants recommended expanding WPF
grantmaking to the entire Delaware River Basin. Complete notes are here.
education. Participants called for WPF to rally business, community and
education leaders around a strong vision for public education. WPF can help
hold civic leaders accountable and focus the district on results. It can also introduce the portfolio concept
and spread successful school models. Skill-building is needed for school
leaders and teachers. Full meeting notes are here.
- Shale gas extraction. Conversation focused on the need to better understand the cumulative
impacts of shale development on the environment, public health, and local
communities. Participants emphasized a
need for trustworthy data and objective analyses to inform the public debate. WPF
was encouraged to convene community, field, and industry leaders to support the
development of good policies and industry best practices. View the meeting notes here.
place-making. Conversation captured the need for nonprofits and the public
sector to work together to create, improve, and manage public space. WPF was
encouraged to provide the vision, direction, and leadership for these efforts. This
might include providing risk capital, convening organizations, and
modeling/rewarding successful practices. Click here for complete notes.
development. Participants discussed the need for incentives and models for
more integrated youth services. Mapping needs would help target resources to
address specific outcomes. Participants recommended support for staff
skill-building, including around discrimination and the needs of high-risk
youth. WPF should hold organizations to clear and meaningful standards. View the full notes here.