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Update from the Greater Philadelphia Nonprofit Repositioning Fund

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

By Nadya Shmavonian

After a little over two years in business, the Fund appears to be well ensconced within the region’s nonprofit infrastructure. We have deeply appreciated the interaction we have had with the nonprofit community, including our 25 grants to support exploration and implementation of collaborative transactions among nonprofits in the five-county region.  We are pleased and excited to share that our funders have re-committed for Round II of the Fund, which will carry us through 2020.  

As we look forward to Round II, however, it is hard not to be concerned about the challenges that nonprofits will be facing in the coming years.  A new tax code, severe regulatory changes, and a pervasive sense of political uncertainty suggest that the ability to bring creative adaptation to bear in our sector will be vital. Strong business planning, risk management, long-term collaboration, and exploring alternative mechanisms such as fiscal sponsorships, are among many important strategic considerations that nonprofit organizations will need to contemplate in these turbulent times.  

The Fund addresses only one small piece of that vexing puzzle, but one that puts us in close touch with the external forces that social purpose agencies are facing.  Through their own collaboration on the Fund, our donors recognize that we need to work together as a community to strategize and accept that the only constant will, indeed, be change. Our goal at the Fund is to facilitate the pursuit of wise repositioning in whatever ways we can – both formally through our grants, and informally through dialogue and educational opportunities between and among nonprofits and funders.  

In the spirit of continuous change, I also want to share that the Fund will be establishing an administrative relationship with SeaChange Capital Partners in 2018. While my work with the Fund will remain unchanged, with some additional support from the SeaChange team we will now be able extend our experience in Philadelphia to help build the field of nonprofit collaboration at the national level.  SeaChange Capital Partners is a nonprofit merchant bank, based in New York, and much of the Fund’s structure and approach was modeled after SeaChange’s management of the New York Merger, Acquisition, and Collaboration Fund (NYMAC).  Since 2009, SeaChange has also conducted national collaboration work in partnership with the Lodestar Foundation, and they engage in a range of other activities that strengthen the New York region’s nonprofit community, including managing a Program Related Investment (PRI) fund, and even undertaking select nonprofit turn-around work. Our hope is that we may find opportunities to bring SeaChange’s transactional skills and experience to the Philadelphia market. Notably, SeaChange was one of the primary authors of the vital recent study funded by The Philadelphia Foundation: The Financial Health of Philadelphia-Area Nonprofits.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia for incubating and hosting the Fund since 2015.  Without its support, we would not have been able to launch and position the Fund successfully within the region.  This is exactly the kind of innovation that a philanthropic network can make possible, and we are grateful to Philanthropy Network for modeling this type of collaborative leadership.  The Philadelphia Foundation will remain our grantmaking partner through Round II – we could not receive or make grants without its ongoing partnership and support.

We look forward to continued evolution and partnership with the Greater Philadelphia nonprofit community, and to learning from and advancing the field of nonprofit collaboration with you in 2018.