Better Nonprofit Partnership & Collaboration

John SchoberCross-Sector Collaboration

In our previous blog, we talked about the problem of organizational silos: groups of people within an organization working and making decisions without the proper input from other stakeholders. Silos also exist across organizations in communities and are a problem because they lead to missed opportunities to address complex community challenges including, poverty, inclusion, homelessness, addiction, workforce development, and others.

Silos exist in communities because organizations whose goals and missions are aligned well tend to collaborate and make a greater collective impact. Those whose goals and mission are not aligned well tend to not collaborate, typically due to competition or indifference. The problem of silos in communities lies not in the fact that both collaboration and competition exist, but rather that they inhibit the creation of solutions that would benefit everyone involved.

It is not surprising that nonprofit competition in a community can lead to silos. When organizations must compete for funding, talent, and attention, they are less likely to find ways to work together, even if they have common goals. However, it is a bit more surprising that collaboration can also lead to silos.

When organizations from a specific sector work together on solving a problem, it’s common and more accessible for them to only look at resources from that particular sector to solve the problem. What they might not see is that resources from other sectors could be a key part of the solution to what they’re trying to solve. Addressing the problem of silos in communities is no small challenge and requires many people collaborating to resolve the issue and find common ground.

Resources on the topic of nonprofit partnership with the community:

·        The Essential Skills of Cross-Sector Leadership

·        Promoting Cross-Sector Collaboration

·        Backbone Organizations Eroding Norms Make Networks Succeed

Communities making nonprofit collaboration a priority:

·        Amazon HQ2: In a contest to find the next Amazon Headquarters, Contestants making their cities more hospitable for Amazon might also translate into making them more hospitable in general. Small cities were also teaming up to make their network stronger.

·        Say Yes to Education: Founded in 1987, 112 Philadelphia sixth graders were promised to be prepared for college with their college tuition paid if they graduated high school. Say Yes now helps entire communities make a similar commitment to every public high school student.

·        Lyft: Nonprofits working across more than 20 cities nationwide will be eligible to apply for a Lyft Community Grant. Each month, one nonprofit in each participating region will receive a $1,000 grant in the form of Lyft ride credit to enhance regular or one-off programs.

Asset-Based Community Development

Asset-Based Community Development focuses on leveraging all of the assets of a community in addressing the problems of the community. The mere process of asset mapping is a valuable exercise that challenges people to think outside of the conventions of their sector and organization and imagine new ways of addressing community challenges. A focus on leveraging across assets multiple sectors in the work of the community creates relationships and processes and deliver new solutions.

Cross-Sector Leadership Development

Cross-Sector Leadership Development involves training leaders from specific sectors to be able to work more effectively across sectors. It can involve learning about what drives different sectors of the economy and building the skills of learning, listening, empathy, complex problem-solving systems thinking

Pay for Success Programs

Pay-for-Success Programs generally involve private investors funding new initiatives with the expectation of realizing financial returns at a later date. These programs necessarily bring people and organizations together from private sectors, government, and philanthropy to find sustainable ways to address community challenges in new ways.

Community silo-busting doesn’t have to involve larger initiatives like those listed above. Simple acts like attending conferences or gatherings for different sectors other than your own, engaging people from other areas of your organization (such as volunteers or board members), or helping to promote the good work of organizations throughout your community can add up over time.