Can we do it alone?

Many nonprofits are upside down right now due to the pandemic. What to do? Could this be the right time for more partnership and collaboration? Even if you aren’t upside down, perhaps this is the time to answer the question: can we do it alone?


Sometimes the nonprofit sector can mimic the perils of the private sector – organizations on the verge of collapse; struggles to retain talent and challenges recruiting new team members; financial uncertainty; market changes; new demand for different services; do more with less. In times like this we can forget that at our core, nonprofits are about service, charity, and philanthropy. We are stronger together, and none of us has the capacity to do it all. In fact, doing our part – delivering on our unique mission – so often depends on others.

Benefits of collaborating and partnering include the ability to focus on that which your organization does well. Importantly, you can take advantage of that which your so-called competitors – now collaborators or partners – do well. Together you can position yourselves to meet more of the total needs of those you serve, celebrate, or advocate for. There is the opportunity for all parties to reduce costs, increase resources, and eliminate duplication. 

Whether you are expanding your collaborations, or are new to this way of working, take a moment before acting to envision, network, explore and plan. Seek out organizations and businesses that share your vision, mission, and goals. Pay close attention to those with a well-defined track record, relationships you don’t have, or capacity and infrastructure in those areas where you are not yet strong. Review the impact you are making now, and what could be in the future. Identify areas of potential collaboration: determine what community needs could be best met through consciously and consistently working with others. Answer the question: how can we enhance the quality of our work?

You may want to bring in a consultant for this work; you may want to reach out to a local foundation – especially a community foundation – for guidance, suggestions, research, and resources. Do not let ego or pride stand in your way. And don’t go down this road without the full engagement of your board, staff and volunteers. Put transparency and accountability at the center of all discussions. Be clear about why you are exploring new ways of working. As your conversations move forward, make sure the roles and responsibilities of all parties are clearly understood and documented. Hold yourself open and accountable to your community – answer questions and be open to input which may or may not initially feel supportive. 

Collaboration and partnerships are looked on favorably by many funders and those who influence gifts and grants. Be clear about the value each partner brings to a collaboration and how all are stronger together. Avoid the perception that you are only raising money to survive.

Whether formal or informal our interdependence requires collaboration and partnerships. Let’s make more room for these as we grow into the unknown that lies ahead. 


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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