What are ships for?

Ellen Remmer
Strategic Philanthropy
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Since announcing our merger with The Boston Foundation a few weeks ago, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about why we merged, how it will work and what might change.   We’ve received many notes of congratulations and also a little head scratching.  Does this mean that TPI will only work in Boston?  What does this mean for TPI’s community foundation work?  What is this new animal anyway?

Of course everyone knows that the one constant is that there is always change.  Certainly none of us could have imagined even 5 years ago how technology would transform giving and networking.  Or what would happen to foundation endowments.  Or that we would literally have revolutions in global civil society, fueled by youth and mobile technology.  How does one succeed in a rapidly changing environment?  Innovate, differentiate, adapt.  Go out on the edge – there’s a different view out there.

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. - William Shedd

TPI decided in 2011 to explore the idea of merging with another organization because we wanted to increase our impact.  Twenty-two years after launching the field of philanthropy advising, we decided it was time to adventure across some new seas and we set out to find a partner that could complement and expand our platform, and where the math produced 1+1=3.

We went looking for organizations led by remarkable people, on growth trajectories, who shared our values and core purpose, and saw extraordinary opportunity in bringing together their organization with our brand, intellectual content, clients and staff.   Along this journey, we had fascinating and serious exploratory conversations with leaders of a handful of great organizations and got truly jazzed by the possibilities of coming together with several of them.  When I reached out to Paul Grogan at TBF, it was in this spirit of looking at a wide range of innovative combinations.  But the more we talked, and met with corresponding senior staff, the vision for this particular partnership became increasingly compelling.  We also became intrigued by the notion of proofing a new model for philanthropy support and growth.

So what is that new model?  What is possible with the TPI/TBF combination?

As my financial advisor tells me too often when I ask about the future of the markets, I don’t really know.  But I do have some aspirations and they include:

  • TBF’s current clients will become motivated to take a fresh look at their giving and take advantage of TPI services to sharpen and elevate their giving goals; perhaps develop an initiative around a specific issue; or engage other family members
  • Other greater Boston donors– including corporations, families, foundations and individuals – will take advantage of the unparalleled combined skills and knowledge of TPI and TBF around effective giving
  • TPI’s current clients from around the world will find enormous value from the added strengths, skills and experience of TBF staff in such areas as public education, advocacy and technical assistance
  • With our combined capacities and platform, we will successfully build new models of peer learning and collaboration
  • TPI will bring even greater value-add to our community foundation clients who look to strengthen their donor relationships and partnerships
  • Community foundations around the world  will learn from our successes and failures in offering a robust philanthropic advisory service
  • We will help to invent the next breakthrough approach to increasing the impact of philanthropy.

Will all this happen? Maybe. Maybe not.  Will other opportunities emerge that we can’t even imagine?  Definitely.  That’s the whole idea.