The Lansdale Collaboration: Fostering Social Innovation through Collaboration

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Introduction

Four nonprofit organizations in the North Penn community of Montgomery County—Advanced Living Communities (a developer of affordable senior housing), Manna on Main Street (a soup kitchen and  food pantry), North Penn YMCA and The PEAK Center (a senior center)—have developed an innovative partnership, the Lansdale Collaboration Project, to co-locate their facilities on a shared campus in Lansdale. By sharing facilities and resources, the partners intend to collaborate on programs, provide better access to services and use financial and volunteer resources most effectively.

The Collaboration promises to strengthen the capacity of each of the partners and create a vibrant community center at the eastern gateway to Lansdale Borough. The project’s design fully supports the goals of Lansdale Borough’s community development and revitalization plans. The North Penn Community Health Foundation (NPCHF) has supported the Collaboration through strategic funding for visioning and organizational, legal and fundraising planning as well as collaborative program development.

The Genesis of the Collaboration

Since its founding in 2002, NPCHF has sought to address selected health and human service problems and needs in the North Penn area and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The foundation combines high-impact grantmaking with capacity building for area nonprofits. Partnerships and collaborations are fostered and encouraged to promote learning and creative problem solving and to leverage the core competencies and resources of collaborators seeking to address unmet community needs.

As part of a broad community needs assessment, the Foundation joined with other public and private funders to commission the 2006 BoomerANG Project (“Boomers—Aging’s Next Generation”), which highlighted the explosive growth of the 55- to 64-year-old cohort in Montgomery County and found that these “boomers” seek a different set of services and choices than are currently offered by traditional senior centers; they want more focus on health and wellness provided in a setting that allows for intergenerational connections. The study also found that quality, affordable housing—especially for low-income seniors—is almost nonexistent in the greater Lansdale community and that those units that do exist have long waiting lists.

Recognizing these challenges, each of the four partner organizations had planned to expand and update their individual facilities to better serve their constituents. As a funder of each of the organizations, NPCHF brought the leaders of the agencies together to discuss a potential collaboration. After a series of facilitated meetings, it became clear that developing a shared campus would enhance the opportunities of each organization to achieve its mission in the most cost-effective way and, by virtue of working at the same site, foster opportunities to collaborate on new programs to enrich the lives of their existing constituents and attract new ones as well.

As a member of the Lansdale Collaboration, each organization maintains its autonomy and independent governance but agrees to share certain operating and maintenance functions for the campus. The partners have executed legal joint-venture agreements that define the rights and responsibilities of each organization in the Collaboration.

Introduction

Four nonprofit organizations in the North Penn community of Montgomery County—Advanced Living Communities (a developer of affordable senior housing), Manna on Main Street (a soup kitchen and  food pantry), North Penn YMCA and The PEAK Center (a senior center)—have developed an innovative partnership, the Lansdale Collaboration Project, to co-locate their facilities on a shared campus in Lansdale. By sharing facilities and resources, the partners intend to collaborate on programs, provide better access to services and use financial and volunteer resources most effectively.

The Collaboration promises to strengthen the capacity of each of the partners and create a vibrant community center at the eastern gateway to Lansdale Borough. The project’s design fully supports the goals of Lansdale Borough’s community development and revitalization plans. The North Penn Community Health Foundation (NPCHF) has supported the Collaboration through strategic funding for visioning and organizational, legal and fundraising planning as well as collaborative program development.

The Genesis of the Collaboration

Since its founding in 2002, NPCHF has sought to address selected health and human service problems and needs in the North Penn area and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The foundation combines high-impact grantmaking with capacity building for area nonprofits. Partnerships and collaborations are fostered and encouraged to promote learning and creative problem solving and to leverage the core competencies and resources of collaborators seeking to address unmet community needs.

As part of a broad community needs assessment, the Foundation joined with other public and private funders to commission the 2006 BoomerANG Project (“Boomers—Aging’s Next Generation”), which highlighted the explosive growth of the 55- to 64-year-old cohort in Montgomery County and found that these “boomers” seek a different set of services and choices than are currently offered by traditional senior centers; they want more focus on health and wellness provided in a setting that allows for intergenerational connections. The study also found that quality, affordable housing—especially for low-income seniors—is almost nonexistent in the greater Lansdale community and that those units that do exist have long waiting lists.

Recognizing these challenges, each of the four partner organizations had planned to expand and update their individual facilities to better serve their constituents. As a funder of each of the organizations, NPCHF brought the leaders of the agencies together to discuss a potential collaboration. After a series of facilitated meetings, it became clear that developing a shared campus would enhance the opportunities of each organization to achieve its mission in the most cost-effective way and, by virtue of working at the same site, foster opportunities to collaborate on new programs to enrich the lives of their existing constituents and attract new ones as well.

As a member of the Lansdale Collaboration, each organization maintains its autonomy and independent governance but agrees to share certain operating and maintenance functions for the campus. The partners have executed legal joint-venture agreements that define the rights and responsibilities of each organization in the Collaboration.

The Shared Campus

The Shared Campus

With the addition of the three-acre property adjacent to the YMCA’s current eight-acre campus, the new 11-acre campus on East Main Street will include 60 independent living units for low-income seniors situated on three floors above the Manna and PEAK offices and program facilities; a commercial kitchen designed to support the culinary needs of all four partners; an expanded Y that will include a zero-entry family pool, a new gymnasium, locker rooms, classroom and community spaces; and a lobby atrium that will serve as a shared gathering space for all members, clients, volunteers and community residents. The site is situated in a walkable downtown business community, is served by a public transportation bus route and nearby rail service and has accessible parking.

The partner organizations will share certain construction costs including land development, architectural fees and site work. Because the project includes affordable senior housing, it qualifies for support through Low Income Housing Tax Credits, a federal tax credit program administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). If these credits are awarded, they will cover nearly $18 million of the $27 million project cost. PHFA awards these credits through a highly competitive process that assigns coveted points for projects that include many of the attributes this project contemplates. Thanks to this unique funding formula, the completed facility will be larger and more robust than any that the partners could have built separately. The partners will coordinate fundraising, launching a single campaign that will ask potential donors to make gifts to the Collaboration campaign—knowing that their single gift will benefit four worthy nonprofits and thousands of community residents. During the capital campaign, each partner has agreed to collaborate on and coordinate annual giving campaigns to help educate potential donors on the need for both annual giving and capital support for this unique opportunity.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013. Once the campus opens in November 2014, it will operate as a condominium association with the partners sharing common operating expenses such as housekeeping, landscaping, maintenance, security and insurance. This cost sharing will mitigate the effect of any increased operating costs, freeing more resources for community services, not overhead.

Leveraging Collaboration

While the building plan breaks new ground in this community, the opportunities for service collaboration are even more powerful. For example:

  • The partners plan to leverage Manna’s expertise in food preparation to benefit each organization while generating additional revenue for Manna. The shared lobby café will be supported by a commercial kitchen operated by Manna staff and volunteers. Multiple generations will enjoy connecting with each other around a meal. Manna staff will provide snacks to the Y’s child care programs and full lunches for the PEAK Center’s congregant meal program. A small convenience store will also sell staples such as bread and milk to Advanced Living residents and other visitors.
  • Volunteers are essential to the operation of each of the partner’s facilities—Manna on Main Street has 1,200 active volunteers and a waiting list. The partners have decided to purchase shared volunteer scheduling software, which will centralize volunteer management—including recruitment, orientation and scheduling—through Manna.  Within the Collaboration, current volunteers will be exposed to new volunteer options. These same volunteers also represent potential new members for the North Penn Y, the PEAK Center and Advanced Living.
  • Advanced Living residents and Manna clients and volunteers will be encouraged to use the fitness programs offered by the YMCA and the PEAK Center, with financial assistance available as needed. The PEAK Center will offer social services and counseling to Manna’s senior clients.
  • The partners will take a coordinated approach to event planning, such as avoiding date conflicts for important events, coordinating space scheduling and utilizing volunteer resources to assist in setup and management. All the partners regularly invite community organizations to their respective sites; in the new facility, partners will have enhanced opportunities to offer services, education and support as a secondary benefit to the community’s nonprofits and businesses.
  • Shared transportation services will bring clients and members to the campus, increasing participation and reducing isolation.
  • Innovative collaborative programs will offer the partners new opportunities for grant funding, building capacity for the future.

Even now—with the shared facility nearly two years away—the four partners are planning how they will approach joint decision making, program planning and community outreach and engagement by inviting residents, members, clients and the broader community to share their experiences, ideas and hopes, with the goal of further developing the power of collaboration. They intend to establish a council to ensure regular, structured communication about operating challenges and programming opportunities. A collaboration coordinator will help ensure and support a successful collaboration process.

Through the planning process, new opportunities are already taking form. For instance, PEAK closed its old facility and relocated its programs to an Advanced Living campus. During the first week of operation at the new site, community participation in the noontime meal program more than doubled!  Manna relocated to a larger facility in April 2012 and is using its new commercial kitchen equipment and culinary expertise to enhance its own programming in preparation for the expanded role it will have on the new campus. PEAK has contracted with the Y to use its staff to provide fitness programs. Best of all, the leadership of the partners continue to ask questions and explore new opportunities that are contributing to an understanding of how to efficiently leverage time, resources and talents to best address community needs and interests.

While each partner will benefit from the economies of scale and cost-sharing opportunities this collaboration will provide, this project has the potential to dramatically improve how clients of each of the four partner organizations—Advanced Living, Manna on Main Street, North Penn YMCA and the PEAK Center—receive services and interact with their neighbors. The Lansdale Collaboration is an innovative model that seeks to capitalize on the strengths each partner brings and builds community by offering a range of much needed services in a centralized location. The North Penn Community Health Foundation is proud to be a funder of this unique partnership.

References

References

Marcus, Michael and John Migliaccio. "BoomerANG Project Montgomery County, Pennsylvania." North Penn Community Health Foundation. January 2006. http://npchf.org/sites/npchf.org/files/attachments/boomerang_report_sunflowers_0.pdf.

Author Bios

Russell Johnson is the President and CEO for the North Penn Community Health Foundation. He has more than 25 years of health and human services experience and has held leadership positions in both public and private sector health and human services agencies working in the fields of child welfare, aging, and behavioral health. Mr. Johnson serves as a special advisor to the board of the Greater North Penn Collaborative for Health & Human Services and is co-chair of the Pennsylvania Health Funders' Collaborative, a statewide membership group of health philanthropies.

William P. Brown, Jr. President and CEO of Advanced Living Management & Development, Inc. which develops, builds and manages affordable housing and services for the elderly and disabled persons while they are aging in place and others in need of transitional housing (homeless prevention).  He is a seasoned housing executive that has over 33 years of experience.  He is the President Elect for the Pennsylvania-Delaware Affordable Housing Management Association.  Mr. Brown is a graduate of the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania and received his Master's degree in Healthcare Administration from St. Joseph's University.

Robin Burstein is the Executive Director for Encore Experiences at Harleysville and The PEAK Center in Lansdale.  Ms. Burstein is incoming president of the North Penn Collaborative for Health and Human Services which fosters information, dialogue, and action around critical community issues. 

Robert M. Gallagher is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the North Penn YMCA located in central Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He holds a graduate degree from North Michigan University and is currently on the local Police Athletic League Board of Directors, Abington Hospital - Lansdale Campus Community Advisory Committee and Rotary Club of North Penn Board of Directors.

Suzan Neiger Gould became the Executive Director for Manna on Main Street in October 2012. Manna is a food pantry, soup kitchen and emergency financial aid provider serving the North Penn region. Ms. Neiger  Gould has extensive leadership experience and a master's degree in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University.