(A working list) of Ways to Introduce Collaboration to your Community

I’m very excited about working with Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Diego Chapter.  Over the weekend during Professional Development meeting we got into a “brainstorming dialog” regarding ways to build more dialog between the nonprofit groups.  We were talking about how often three non-profit organization are working toward similar goals and don’t share resources.  We tried to count how many times there may have been a outreach opportunity smothered due to lack of resources or fragmented audiences.

After some discussion a mango smoothie and double chocolate brownie we came up with a couple strategies to encourage more collaboration in our San Diego Non Profit Community.

  1. Talk about Collaboration. Some times the best way to obtain collaboration is to start talking about it.  Talk about what your organization is doing.  Have a conversation even if doesn’t directly lead to a co-sponsored program. You love your organization and should feel empowered to talk about what you are doing and actively seek to resource share.
  2. Create a Community meeting place. I really like the idea of The Hub it is a space for collaboration. Sure there are workshops for Grant writing, individual networking events but how often do organizations get to sit next to each other during the development stage of a project?  Many times similar organizations are competing for same sphere of grants, volunteers, resources etc.  Isn’t reach and impact most important?

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  1. tmsimpson says:

    One of the challenges with fostering a community of collaboration among nonprofits is that many still function based on a competition mindset. These are the orgs that believe there are only a finite amount of resources to go around, and as a result they believe they need to ‘play their hand close’ to ensure they hold on to the few resources they’ve acquired. I believe that the current nonprofit landscape is allowing for more innovative nonprofits and nonprofit leaders to sprout up that believe in the value of collaboration and strategic partnerships.

    The trick is making sure those collaborations and partnerships are FORMALIZED and have concrete goals that demonstrate the effectiveness of the collaboration over time. Without a formalized agreement, it becomes difficult to gauge whether the expectations for each org are actually being met.

    Blog on!


    1. I can understand why NP’s would want to play their hand close. Resources are limited but if the impact of your reach is greater than the ‘loss of resources’ then I’d say go for it. NP’s are set up to help their community or cause so its not beneficial to hoard away resources. However, I do agree if your going to collaborate it should be formalized. Both parties should try to design a mutual beneficial partnership.


  2. ranavain says:

    It does seem a shame that more orgs don’t share resources. Even ones that aren’t directly related could share more, even if its just information. Particularly human services, like homeless shelters, food kitchens, mental health services, child protective services… all of these should be able to inter-referral, and perhaps run fundraising events together!

    However, some definitely benefit from remaining separate. I’m starting a non-profit for microgrants for college students to pay for textbooks, medical expenses, etc. There is another org that represents college students, in terms of lobbying and policy, and while it would be interesting if we merged it feels like maybe we’d be serving our audiences less well. My org is just about common expenses, and I would feel odd representing certain policies that would not necessarily be shared by all our members. Thinking of ways that non-profits can work together more is definitely interesting!



    1. Your right, sometimes two organizations can be serving the same community in completely different capacities. Maybe they shouldn’t be co-hosting events. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for collaboration or resource sharing.

      Example: Does the group that does policy and lobbying on the student’s behalf have statistical data of your demographic that would be useful in preparing micro-grants? Maybe this lobbying group has data but doesn’t have a soft anecdotal concept of their demographic. Would the micro-grant NP be able to share some information with the policy group or help with a forum to discuss the impact of a policy, instead of policy in theory.

      These two groups didn’t have a swanky dinner party promoting themselves or share a table at a new student forum, but if one group has quality information that the other could use why duplicate research? Maybe neither group has any information on their demographic could they share the cost to obtain this information? Not all groups should consolidate but all organizations should look for ways to be more efficient right?


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