Have you ever had that awkward relationship conversation where you are attempting to define a relationship you are in? 

So have we, and when I say we I mean our organization. Conconi Family Foundation has experienced those moments both internally and externally with our partners. Over the last 2 decades we’ve come to realize that we do not care much for the ‘donor’ title. And as you know titles DO matter because they label and confine. To us, ‘donor’ implies a casual relationship and that’s just not what we are looking for. Hear me out

Experience and a quick search for a definition of a donor will tell you that it is a person or entity that gives, donates or presents something. It all starts with a high standards speed dating contest, followed by a yes. An implied expectation of perfection, that culminates with a final report presented at a 6-month or a 1-year mark, the end. Phew! If we extrapolate from that we can say that it is a one-up type of a relationship as there is someone else on the receiving end who needs to jump through hoops and meet all sorts of demands. We have no interest in being in one-up relationships. 

Instead we prefer partnerships. For one, a partnership implies a commitment. We agree to work together, in sync, to advance mutual interests. It also implies that both or all (depending on the number of partners) have something to contribute. Partnerships offer much more equalizing dynamic then donor-to-recipient relationships do. Not to mention they are far more interesting and enjoyable too!

Now, there is one key requirement before a donor can become a partner – learn and grow. We’ve all had that well-meaning person in our lives whose advice is completely useless, but they mean well. Keep ego in check, keep calm and carry on with learning – this is our motto. We spend extraordinary amounts of time immersed in the field before we begin to engage as a partner. We do this so that we can meaningfully contribute, connect the dots, and provide a fresh perspective when needed. We want to be a partner who pulls our weight and not be a dead weight.

We’ve had a great privilege to learn from numerous people and organizations over the last 20 years. Some were great examples of how to be, others of how not to be. Both have left a huge imprint on our organizational DNA, and without them our path to impact would not be possible.

We hope to continue the next 20 years learning our way through philanthropy. For now, you can check out our vlog series for a closer look at our journey.

All my best,


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