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David Rockefeller Jr.'s 11 Rules for True Partners

NPS Partner David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller, Jr. comes from a family that has been the largest benefactor in giving to the National Park System with a history of partnerships with public lands and their mangers. His grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his uncle, Laurance S. Rockefeller, converted a very significant amount of the family's wealth into gifts of lands dedicated to public enjoyment and permanent protection. These gifts included Grand Teton, Great Smokies, Acadia, Virgin Islands, Haleakala, and Marsh-Billings. Laurance's son, Larry, played a pivotal role in the passage of the Alaska Lands Act that added 47 million acres to the National Park System in Alaska.

Following in the philanthropic tradition of his family, David Rockefeller served for nine years as Vice Chair of the National Park Foundation Board where he orchestrated high profile partnerships.

Since his earliest days as a fundraiser, Mr. Rockefeller learned that building private resources means building relationships with private citizens can take time and may need to accommodate differences of opinion. "But I can guarantee that the benefits from building 'True Partnerships' between professional public managers and engaged private donors will repay the investment of your time and effort many times over," Mr. Rockefeller believes.

The following is an excerpt from a keynote address Mr. Rockefeller gave on November 18, 2003, at the Joint Ventures: Partners in Stewardship Conference in Los Angeles.

"The vision and action of individuals, combined in partnership with the government, has led to the creation of federally protected lands and to the conservation movement itself.

"I would like to speak today about the nature of "True Partnerships" between federal land managers and groups of private citizens and what it can mean for the future of our public lands.

"As a family man and as an organization man, I have found it very important to define the elements of True Partnership. I believe most of the same rules that apply to personal partnerships can be applied to institutional partnership. Here is my list:

  1. Mutual trust is the sine qua non of effective partnership.
  2. Partnerships work best when both partners come with self-confidence to the arrangement.
  3. The separate roles of partners should be well differentiated.
  4. Partnership should begin with a collaborative spirit.
  5. Partnerships feed on openness and honesty between the partners.
  6. They need excellent two way communication.
  7. They work best when the long view is taken.
  8. They require patience and tolerance.
  9. They need explicit common objectives.
  10. They thrive when they can adjust to changed circumstances.
  11. True Partnerships are NOT:
    • A relationship in which one party tells the other what to do;
    • Nor a relationship in which one party proposes and the other pays;
    • Nor a relationship in which one party does not respect the professionalism and experience of the other."

"Partnerships involving the public and private sectors are very common, but they are not without complication, because they may involve conflicting values, such as a propensity for strict adherence to rules versus an unfettered spirit of entrepreneurial inventiveness.True Partnerships should include a tolerance for different perspectives."

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