How to create a nonprofit partnership with private and public sectors

Part one of a three part series

Cathy Davis

Cathy Davis, Executive Director, BHPMSS, Inc

Private/public partnerships are promoted as a collaborative way to bring people and resources together across sectors. A recent example of public/private partnership is the development of senior housing in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point community. We are proud to be affiliated with this project and have witnessed the many twists and turns it has taken over the years. We asked Cathy Davis, the executive director of the Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, Inc. (BHPMSS) to share the specifics of her partnership so that you, our readers, can begin to imagine what a partnership could look like for your organization or institution. Her story is specific to her community: your story will be specific to the community and people you serve.

Saad&Shaw – Please share with us the importance of the senior housing that BHPMSS and its partners are building.

Cathy Davis: The new senior housing will make it possible for seniors to age in a secure and familiar place — their own community — close by to friends and family. The housing is part of our vision for an Aging Campus, a concept that is already reflected in many of our current programs. When fully completed, our new supportive housing and state-of-the-art senior center will offer Bayview seniors everything necessary to make their lives comfortable and fulfilling, including: affordable housing, a safe and nurturing environment; a wide choice of planned activities (recreational, spiritual and educational); special events; preventive healthcare services; and excellent daily nutrition. We will continue the exceptional level of care for which BHPMSS is already well known: a compassionate and caring staff; a safe, secure and comfortable environment; accessible transportation; exciting field trip adventures; and creative programs and community events.

Saad&Shaw: Please describe the private public partnership that BHPMSS created, who the partners are and how each benefits the community and each of the partners?

Cathy Davis: BHPMSS initiated the public partnership for our new housing and senior center through Dr. George Davis (my husband), who was a community organizer, gerontologist and political strategist. He had a vision for what he wanted and he was willing to tell everyone about it. He enrolled the board of directors, staff, all the city officials, politicians and the community at large in creating the “Aging Campus”.

Our developer became our partner because of their respect for community building. As a for-profit developer they work with community non-profits, rather than compete with them. We found that many non-profit developers do not need another non-profit to support their work because they have the non-profit designation.

Our relationship with the City is longstanding: we are advocates and they are a funder. We attended numerous meetings, workshops and listening sessions to advocate for what was needed in our community. City funders utilize a community process and you have to be willing to play the game, the way it is played. The City benefits from a large community process that includes stakeholders and points the way.  They want to fund popular ideas that have widespread support and solve a problem.

Saad&Shaw: What is your definition of a private/public partnership?

Cathy Davis: A private/public partnership benefits all parties working together for a common purpose that ultimately benefits the intended clients. Each party has their own interest that has to be served in order to move forward. Collectively they have to be able to work as a team.

Testimonial video about BHPMSS senior housing – meet the people who helped make the vision and the dream come true.

Next week: Accountability and trust

Learn more about BHPMSS at

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


4 responses to “How to create a nonprofit partnership with private and public sectors

  1. Pingback: Accountability and Trust: Keys to Partnership | FUNdraising Good Times

  2. Pingback: Compromise, relationships and faith | FUNdraising Good Times

  3. Pingback: Compromise, relationships and faith | Saad&Shaw

  4. Pingback: Accountability and Trust: Keys to Partnership |

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