social-media-2457842_640Collaboration can take many forms. The most common are actual mergers of two or more entities to create a new organisation, formal partnerships and strategic alliances. Most NFPs usually derive several benefits when they work together, including a reduction in costs, the ability to improve the number and quality of services that they offer, and a positive increase in the results of their advocacy and outreach efforts.

Despite the obvious advantages that comes from working together, a successful collaboration takes more than just a willingness to team up with others. It takes both time and resources that many NFPs believe they lack. For partnerships and other forms of collaboration to be effective, the parties involved must first build their internal capacity to cooperate with one another.

Successful Cooperation Begins with Change

Where does building the capacity to cooperate begin? With change. Most nonprofits operate from a scarcity model. Their leadership tends to zero in on what they don’t have.

To be able to successfully partner with others, nonprofit leaders must first radically change their mindset. Rather than focusing on what skills and resources your NFP lacks, highlight what you and your people have to offer other organisations.

What is it that you do best? What areas do you have an abundance of experience and capacity to serve? Look at the other parties that you are thinking about joining. What do they bring to the table? How will working together help both of your groups do more good?

By changing their focus, leaders can open the door to greater opportunities for both entities to serve others.

Create and Communicate Shared Goals

Of course, a change in mindset doesn’t happen overnight. Even with strong leadership, if you want a collaboration to work, both entities should set clear goals for their organisations, and communicate these shared goals to the rest of their team.

Make it clear to everyone in both organisations, from the outset, how each entity will benefit from cooperating. Identify which organisation, departments and people will be responsible for specific areas and tasks. Always make it clear how particular tasks help further shared goals.

Bring in Third Parties to Help Smooth the Transition

It can be very beneficial to bring in an outside consultant at this stage to evaluate the entities involved and work with leadership to help them decide which areas of expertise each organisation will be responsible for providing to the collaboration. Create a plan that spells out how both entities will begin to make the transition to working together, and what will happen at each stage.

Focus on Building Trust and Relationships at Every Level of Your Organisation

To make the transition process go more smoothly, identify key members at every level of both organisations that can act as facilitators and relationship builders. These leaders should focus on encouraging open communication and sharing, as well as building trust among the members of both organisations.

As you begin to work with other entities, misunderstandings can occur, especially in the early days of collaboration. Leaders from both organisations should create a procedure to handle grievances and resolve conflicts before working together. This way, members of both organisations know what steps they should take if a disagreement or other conflict occurs.

Does your organisation have the capacity to be a strong ally and work well with other organisations? Are there third-party entities that have goals that are in alignment with your core values and mission? Why not consider collaborating to increase the impact you both can make in your community?