Everything is About Relationships – Guest Post by Sister Christina Heltsley

Guest post by Sister Christina Heltsley of the Saint Francis Center about what site visits are like from the perspective of the visited organization.

Bill and Sister Christina during a site visit  at the Saint Francis Center.

You have, I am sure, heard the expression, a difference of night and day. Well, the way Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (PVF) does business is distinctly different from almost any other foundation!  An interactive site visit is but one of their innovative and respectful ways of walking with nonprofits.  Aside from the lack of paper required prior to being awarded the opportunity to really demonstrate the quality of one’s programs and service with a site visit, PVF uses a more intuitive approach.  It is not a Kumbaya, laissez-faire kind of thing; it’s just that Bill Somerville and staff have learned to trust what they are looking for and what they are experiencing when visiting a nonprofit.

Like I have said before, with PVF, everything is about relationship, trust, respect, guarding dignity and helping to craft creative programs.  There is not a one-way linear approach or conduit where information is sought from the nonprofit and then funding is either “piped” to that entity or denied.  The flow between PVF and the nonprofit is fluid, mutual, inviting and dynamic.

As the executive director of the St. Francis Center, I must say that when a foundation offers to make a site visit, I am thrilled.  This place, the St. Francis Center, can then speak for itself, and reams of paper are unnecessary to let the stories be known.  Words on paper can never equal the quality of first hand experience of the sights, sounds and feel of a place.

We have tried very hard to have the children in our school understand that it is their classroom, and that they are the hosts/hostesses when guests enter their space.  Site visits from PVF actually give our students the chance to practice being other-centered and less egocentric.  They have the opportunity to welcome, invite and make comfortable those who visit.  Besides, it offers our second language students the chance to interact with adults and use their new vocabulary.

Another freeing aspect of PVF’s tendency to visit, is that we do not have to prepare anything beforehand.  In fact, with Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, we very much have an open door policy asking that whenever any member of the Foundation is in the neighborhood, that they feel free to stop in. That’s how it is when in relationship, really in relationship!

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