Building a Community of Nonprofits

John SchoberCommunities of Practice, Nonprofits, Technology

catholic charities

I recently attended the Annual Gathering for Catholic Charities as an exhibitor for Cureo. Catholic Charities affiliates are well known as strong collaborators in their communities, so we were eager to introduce many of them to our platform.  Conferences always provide the opportunity to get out of the weeds and see elements of the big picture, and this conference provided no shortage of those opportunities.

One thing that caught my interest was the Communities of Practice (COP) at Catholic Charities. About 2 years ago, the COP’s were established to allow better sharing of information and best practices related to national strategic priorities established by Catholic Charities USA:

  • Affordable Housing
  • Integrated Health & Nutrition
  • Immigration & Refugee Services
  • Leadership Development & Catholic Identity
  • Disaster Services
  • Social Enterprise Initiatives
  • Advocacy & Social Policy Initiatives

They are also used to organize work across these organizations, which can include advocacy, planning of events, and others.

We see this approach of a “parent” entity facilitating teams of people from “local” community non-profit organizations to mutual benefit is common in the nonprofit sector.  United Way, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and statewide nonprofit associations, are just a few examples of organizations that use different variations of this strategy.

Technology can play an important role in making these community nonprofits as effective as possible, and the selection of technology should be based in part on the purpose of the teams.  Some teams are focused entirely on information sharing, while others are focused primarily on project management, i.e. organizing and managing work toward some goal/objective/milestone. Most that we’ve seen do some of both. As an example, the COPs at Catholic Charities currently are more focused on information sharing, but they see the potential to do more project work, especially related to advocacy.

Organizations focusing primarily on information sharing and network for strong communities can do so effectively with tools such as Sharepoint, Knowledge Hub, Google Drives, or even their own website through Cureo.

Driven by the continued emphasis in the nonprofit sector on getting more out of less, the trend of global organizations facilitating information sharing and work among local affiliates is expected to continue, if not accelerate. 

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