How can we work better together?
Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz
Entering the nonprofit world as a young man was challenging. I did not expect to enter a field that was just as competitive as the for-profit sector, nor did I expect that the nonprofit world would be challenging. It’s not easy to work in this field, yet many of us do for numerous different reasons. No factor more important than the feeling we get when we help people. Helping people and serving the community can feel like an uphill battle, yet it becomes so much easier when we have someone by our side, helping and motivating us as we climb the hill.
While the world braces for the changes that occur daily with COVID-19, there is one constant that remains: teamwork. Teamwork is essential for us because it enhances our ability to communicate with our peers, our partners and our teammates. Professionals use it daily, whether it is athletes sharing roles in sports or managers sharing responsibilities with their teammates. For us to be efficient, we need to depend on our teammates so that we can amplify our organization’s ability to deliver quality services. When we can deliver quality services, our community prospers and we create opportunities for organization to get funding options, as well as free marketing that many deserve but most cannot afford.
Now more than ever, working together is critical for the nonprofit world, both internally and externally. COVID-19 has restricted us from working face-to-face, which limits the human interaction we depend on when we want to motivate staff or speak to community partners about possible partnerships. We do not know how long this process will last, so we must force ourselves to embrace the discomfort that is change. Change is neverending, yet as we progress in life, we realize that change is not bad if we allow ourselves to embrace it and adapt to it. Internally, organizations should embrace a collaborative leadership model because it feeds a positive culture to both their staff and their stakeholders. Additionally, by working together and sharing responsibilities, agencies will see benefits such as less burnout, positive work culture and, most importantly, the flexibility it needs to prepare for staff reduction or the unfortunate loss of funding. Externally, this culture can help agencies work and communicate more efficiently together. Most communities create task forces or community teams to allow these interactions to happen, however, for communities that struggle with this form of communication, it is important for them to embrace models like these so that this form of communication can be more organic.
There is an African proverb that states: “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s important for us as nonprofit professionals to use this saying in the work we do. When we come together, we can make the impossible, possible. Also, there are times when our ability to work together amplifies our service delivery, which would be harder to accomplish if our clients worked with one organization alone. It is this writer’s belief that if we can embrace models such as a shared leadership, our uphill battles will become less frustrating and more fulfilling.
Justin Chavez is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Chavez is also a former U.S. Marine and holds a bachelor’s degree from ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. He has been in the nonprofit sector since 2007. During his spare time, he enjoys collecting comics, watching sports games and taking hikes with his lovely wife and his very spoiled but loving dog.