pexels-photo-1559106These days, an increasing number of nonprofits are exploring partnerships and informal alliances where they will cooperate with other entities, exchanging information and sharing resources to achieve shared goals. The benefits of collaborating aren’t limited to increasing the services that NFPs offer their members or using resources more wisely. In addition to increasing efficiency and effectiveness, collaboration increases impact and can be used to spread awareness about complex social issues and drive widespread change more quickly.

Stages of Development

There are several ways that nonprofits can collaborate with others to increase everyone’s impact. One of the fastest and easiest ways to get started is to simply agree to exchange resources with another group.

For example, your nonprofit might agree to share office space with other NFPs in exchange for the use of their expertise, such as an app or other patented process, that they’ve developed and that makes it easier to deliver services to members. These types of informal cooperative agreements are usually the first step in building a truly collaborative relationship.

As trust and respect develops between the leaders and teams of the cooperating groups, they may progress to the next stage in their relationship, coordinated efforts. These tend to be formal agreements where everyone enters a formal partnership to share specific resources to improve the delivery of services in the community. If the partners continue to work well with one another, their relationship may be ready for the third stage of growth and become actual collaboration.

At this stage, the alliance is very strong, and the willingness to work in concert to create significant and lasting change is very great. The working relationship between the nonprofits transforms the nature of both. Not only are resources, programs and serves shared between the two, but the actual mission, goals and vision for the future tend to become shared as well. Resources, as well as rewards and outcomes, are clearly defined and freely shared by the participating organisations.

Set Your NFP Up for Successful Collaboration

Is your organisation ready to work with others to achieve a greater impact? The following tips will help your nonprofit strengthen its working relationship with other organisations and set the stage for better outcomes and lasting change.

Know Your Value

Before entering into an alliance, your nonprofit should understand what it has to offer the partnership. What are your core competencies, what do you do well, how will your organisation benefit the alliance? When each party understands their value, it makes it easier to define what each party may gain, and lose, when they cooperate with one another.

Clarity of Purpose

To ensure that your agreements benefit you and your partner organisations, its important for everyone to be clear on their purpose. Seek to fully understand the reasons why you agree to cooperate and work with one another, and how this relationship will help your NFP advance its mission and achieve its objectives.

Be Honest About Your NFP’s Capacity

When collaborating, each party needs to be careful not to overcommit and take on too much. Instead, be honest with others, and yourself, about your NFP’s capacity to serve and what you can realistically contribute to shared ventures. While you want to do what you can to achieve shared objectives, your organisation still needs to retain enough resources to be able to thrive and grow sustainably over time. If your NFP must take actions that draw it away from its core mission to meet the terms of the agreement, then it’s probably best to look for alternative ways to achieve your goals.