3 Collaboration Tips That Can Make or Break Your Nonprofit

Andrew VaethNonprofit Collaboration

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Collaboration can help nonprofits achieve greater social impact at lower cost.”

In other words, teamwork saves time and money. Pretty simple, right?

So, why do so many nonprofits struggle to make team collaboration a part of their organizational culture?

All too often, nonprofits limit themselves to only the resources available within their organization. Sometimes, leaders even neglect collaboration with members of their own team. This lack of collaboration has major drawbacks.

Below, discover three aspects of collaboration that, depending on how they’re approached, can make or break a nonprofit.

1. Effective Communication

If you choose to forego effective internal and external communication, then your organization will lack a key building block of collaboration. The results?

  • Communication overload, where a great deal of information is distributed to all constituents with little context. Overwhelming constituents with information that doesn’t apply to them is confusing, cumbersome, and results in reduced engagement.
  • Higher staff turnover when employees become frustrated with the lack of transparency and disorganization.
  • Duplication of efforts or tasks being neglected entirely, thanks to uncertainty about who is responsible for what.

But don’t worry— there are simple remedies to poor communication:

  • Tailor your communications to the appropriate constituents. Segment constituents and provide the essential information to each group. Providing relevant communication will result in a more engaged readership over time, because the consumer knows you give information that’s important to them.
  • Create a communication plan for consistent cross-agency communication, ensuring that everyone knows the processes and responsibilities associated with projects.

2. Centralized Information

When constituents consume and save important information in multiple places, confusion is inevitable and collaboration is nearly impossible. Not having a centralized location for information can result in the following:

  • Email overload when individuals rely on large email chains to find and share information.
  • Higher Information Technology (IT) management costs when troubleshooting multiple tools for different departments, high software costs for varied tools, and limited IT staff to support the organization.
  • Reduced constituent engagement when people get fed up because they can’t find information.
  • Difficulty transitioning information when there is turnover within the organization, because people aren’t sure where to find important items.

The remedies for scattered information include:

  • Conducting a technology audit, taking stock of exactly which tools people are using between departments and looking for opportunities to combine or simplify.
  • Implementation of one tool that covers most organizational needs, ideally with little to no training and limited IT support.

3. Recognizing Weaknesses and Opportunities

Many organizations choose to ignore their weaknesses, which eliminates opportunities to collaborate for the greater good. This results in:

  • Diluting the mission by focusing on too many initiatives the organization may not excel at, as opposed to a couple activities it specializes in.
  • Spreading constituents too thin, asking too much of individuals for too many different initiatives.
  • Wasted energy and resources on outlets that are simply not in your niche and will likely never be a specialty.

To remedy these downfalls, it’s all about initiating team collaboration:

  • At regular intervals, your organization should look objectively at its strengths and weaknesses. How can you capitalize on strengths and overcome weaknesses to better support the organization’s mission?
  • Partner with organizations that excel in the areas where your organization falls short. Eliminate your resource drain and improve the greater community with a collaborative taskforce.

All of these collaboration tips require some legwork, but this short-term inconvenience results in long-term benefits. Though it may take a day to organize, team collaboration will save costs and headaches down the road.