Better Together: Collaboration and Nonprofit Networking
Just last Friday, The Collaboration Prize announced its third annual winner (congratulations to the Adoption Coalition of Texas!). This competition is working hard to encourage collaboration and highlight outstanding partnerships in our communities.
"Collaboration" is one of the big buzzwords in nonprofits now. It makes sense — when budgets stretch thin, it's important to maximize your resources. The Collaboration Prize itself is a joint effort by several pioneering organizations: The Lodestar Foundation has partnered with the AIM Alliance, the Foundation Center, La Piana Consulting, and other foundation and nonprofit leaders to support the 2011 Prize.
By working together, you're boosting the potential of both organizations. Two heads are better than one, right? How about three? Or five?
It's amazing how many resources are shareable. Have extra toiletries from your last donation drive? Give them to an organization that can use them. Need more volunteers for an event? Invite your friends from the nonprofit down the street to participate with their volunteers. In fact, why don't you plan the event together and make it even bigger and better? And things go on from there.
Yet it's not just about sharing supplies, funds, or even human resources. There are also hidden benefits. By working together, you're combining your reputation with theirs, and you're also incorporating their public support and branding with yours. You're sharing marketing and word-of-mouth, and we all know how valuable getting your name out there is when looking for support.
So, how do you get started? Isn't it hard to find partners?
Actually, it's pretty easy these days. The ease of communication has advanced steadily over the past two decades, but it went up exponentially as soon as social media hit the internet. Communication is now interactive rather than passive (for more on this concept, check out my blog post on the subject here).
With social media, organizations can create profiles and interact with local, national, and international partners in a myriad of ways. It starts as casual chat, sharing links and information, then maybe an idea is mentioned and discussed. An opportunity is discovered. A partnership is born.
Plenty of resources are appearing to help guide and promote collaboration. If you're completely lost, the Nonprofit Collaboration Database is a great place to start. It's packed with helpful information, as well as a searchable database of nonprofits who are looking for partners.
A great book on the subject came out late last year — if you're into reading, check out The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine.
So whether you're social media savvy or not, I encourage you to start looking around for opportunities. Give and ye shall receive. Support each other. Foster new ideas. Think outside the box to further your mission. Just make the connection!
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