Solving major societal problems such as poverty, hunger or global warming isn’t for sissies. If we’re serious about resolving these issues in the nonprofit sector, it’s going to take a large group of champions and superheroes all fighting on the same team. If you’re a nonprofit leader serving the higher calling of a charitable mission, you’re already a hero. Every day you achieve amazing feats of strength, often using only sticks, glue, bubble gum and duct-tape. Your experience tells you that achieving your noble mission would be simpler if you combined forces and aligned resources with like-minded individuals and organizations. You’re ready and eager to multiply your impact by allying with peers, so why is it that some nonprofit leaders close themselves off to collaboration? Joining a nonprofit Justice League of collaborative providers can increase your impact and reduce the weight of your responsibilities to your community.
Kryptonite of Impact
Superman and Wonder Woman are great on their own, yes, but they joined the Justice League because teams of heroes are stronger than solo superheroes. No single nonprofit can provide 100% of what an individual or community needs, after all. Ego, pride and a scarcity mindset are kryptonite to nonprofit impact. Nonprofit leaders who are self-absorbed, competitive, or willfully isolated are not only leaving resources untapped, they’re failing the very people and communities they intend to serve.
Membership Has Its Advantages
Learning how to collaborate might take you out of your comfort zone initially, but with practice it not only gets easier, it makes life better for those whom you serve. Here are some other tangible benefits of collaboration:
- Financial advantage: the more friends you have, the greater your ‘Friends & Family’ discount.
- Group Therapy: commiserating with people who care as much as you do is therapeutic. It’s reassuring to know you are not alone in the fight that means so much to you.
- Clearer Branding: the more you share the message of your organization with others, the stronger your brand becomes.
- New Ideas: the way others do their work will inform your own.
Nonprofit Heroes in Action
I’m grateful to have had colleagues who were excellent examples of collaboration throughout my career. A wonderful gold star ‘alliance’ I worked within can be found in the homeless provider network in the Salt Lake City, UT. The entire continuum of providers formed a team of superheroes, with each provider playing a different role and readily cooperating to benefit the greater good. Some collaboration was as informal as reciprocal referrals for clients needing services, as formal as contractual agreements for services or nonprofit mergers, or somewhere in between. From the top down, there is a cooperative approach to delivering relevant and thoughtful solutions to individuals in need. Each leader in the network understands the role of their organization, is aware of the larger outstanding need and is keenly focused on working with their peers to achieve the greatest impact possible across all the service areas.
How to Join
Collaboration with other nonprofits isn’t accidental and takes intentional action on your part as a leader. Are you ready to join the nonprofit Justice League? Here are a few tips to start you on your journey to quality connections and resources:
- Think holistically about the people you are serving. Consider every angle of the need you are addressing and those impacted. Next, create a list of institutions, groups, organizations and government agencies providing services that address these needs or offer similar services. These are your potential collaborating partners.
- Reach out to 211 (www.211.org) a clearinghouse for resources. 211’s mission is to match people with available resources. The 211 team in your community can recommend nonprofits who provide complimentary or ancillary services. They’ll also add your organization and its services to their list of resources.
- Call an Executive Director or program leader to request an introductory meeting. A young nonprofit leader once asked me, “How do I get other nonprofits in town to take my call or work with me?” Real talk: if they don’t take your call or are indifferent or adversarial in their response, they are not your people. Find your people. Most will be glad to hear from you.
- Share the unique value you offer, aka the ‘why’ of your organization. Be ready to lead with what you can offer a potential new collaborator. What do you bring to the table that can help them help the people they serve? No matter their size or scope, you may offer a solution they need.
- Be humble, and engage with a beginner’s mind. In your initial meeting, learn as much as you can about their organization. Listen more, talk less. The information you learn can help you better understand how to partner with the organization in the future.
- Always remember “you get what you give.” Organizations providing complimentary services are your battle buddies. They are in the trenches fighting the good fight with you. Treat them with high regard and respect, and it will come back to you tenfold.
A Bounty of Unclaimed Treasure
Joining a nonprofit Justice League requires an open mind, an open heart and an open agenda. If you’re the kind of nonprofit leader who wants to serve her organization’s mission with every resource available, then team up with your peers. I am convinced that collaboration offers a bounty of unclaimed treasures for the bold nonprofit leader. If you and your organization need more support or guidance, please request a free 30 minute consultation to discuss how we might help.