Leveraging and Sustainability: A Way to Build Partnerships and Continuity

During the last week and a half I have been attending a series of meetings with a client who is an American Jewish philanthropist and funds a number of innovative and creative programs in Israel. He has a special interest in furthering the development of programs that focus on providing people with greater access to their rights and entitlements. The funding decisions he makes enable organizations to disseminate information so that people know more about the services they can receive and they have knowledge about those services.

It has been a struggle in the United States and Israel to convince both public and voluntary organizations of the importance of making information accessible to clients of public and voluntary agencies and patients in hospitals in Israel. Over the last 30 years the contributor has devoted his life to pushing the limits of bureaucracies that appear to work against providing the most comprehensive information to the people they serve. During the last two years a relationship has been established with a major hospital’s social service department to set up a service to inform the patients and their families about their rights and entitlements.

The service was established by leveraging the donor’s funds with the hospital’s in-kind contribution of staff time; computers and computer programming; assigning space and carrying out the necessary renovations; covering the cost of the telephones and other office equipment; and other services. The hospital administration understood that in order to make the program a reality they would have to be a full partner in planning and implementing the service. Although the last two years have been filled with a lot of tension due to concerns about cash flow and initiating and continuing new programs has been somewhat problematic, the hospital has maintained its commitment.

Continuing the information and referral service has remained a priority because the hospital has had a real partner and has recognized the value of honoring its commitments to the donor. There is strength in utilizing a foundation’s allocation or a donor’s contribution to leverage an organization’s involvement in establishing a new program or maintaining an existing program. In this case a new program was initiated and it was clear to all those involved that there needed to be a multi-year commitment in order to test out the premises upon which the service was established, as well as, to guarantee continued funding if the service proved to be necessary and valuable.

The success of the program was demonstrated by the number of people who gained access not only to information but also to needed services and benefits from both the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) and the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s) that were responsible for providing necessary services. The health care system was not holding back information nor was it reluctant to provide services. It was a function of the bureaucratic barriers preventing people from having access to the appropriate data bases to access information.

The partnership has been strengthened not only by leveraging the donor’s funds with the hospital’s in-kind services, but also by the successful interdisciplinary collaboration among the medical services, social work services, and the volunteers who collaborate with the professional staff. Based on the donor’s recommendation a formative evaluation study was conducted to identify what is needed to move the services along to the next stage. Through the evaluative process the issue of the program’s sustainability has been raised to encourage the hospital to seek additional funding from other foundations and from other present and potential sources from within the Hospital’s resource development department.

Now that the project has completed a pilot phase and the unique contribution of providing access to patients, former patients and their families is recognized additional organizations are interested in replicating the service. Other hospitals have sent staff members to visit the center and to understand how it functions. There are a number of organizations that would like to be part of a network so they do not have to “reinvent the wheel”.

Through the leveraging of resources and the partnership that was created between the donor and the hospital an understanding was reached that if the program was successful then a serious effort would be made to sustain the services in the future. Discussions are now taking place to formulate an agreement that would guarantee funding for the project as long as the hospital maintains its commitment to provide the in-kind support for the program. If the hospital decides at some point that the service is no longer needed and the Center is closed then the funding would cease.

This is a good example of how leveraging of resources can set the stage for sustaining programs in organizations. If a strong partnership is created with parties that are committed to the enhancement of services then there are unlimited possibilities. In times of limited resources these types of arrangements serve the interests of both the funders and the service providers. Being creative can often benefit not only those who provide the resources and those who provide the services but also the recipients of the services.

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.