Making collaboration a priority in nonprofit work

Making collaboration a priority in nonprofit work

Posted on July 02, 2014 by Pam Truitt

When leaders of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida (CEO Rena Coughlin and Director of Programs Kim Govan) asked if I'd be willing to lead a workshop on collaboration for the Community Coach Program, they emphasized that the focus should be on the early phases of collaborative opportunities.

I began the workshop by asking what the attendees wanted to learn about collaboration. They were not shy and within minutes had produced a sophisticated list:

- How to break silos

- How funder collaboratives work

- Accountability. Is everyone walking the talk?

- Making collaboration a priority

- How do you deal with egos?

- Communicating partnership work equally

- Collaboration barriers

- Partner roles and responsibilities

- Ways to build trust

You'd  think a three-hour session might seem like ample time to address every question, but it was not! This blog won’t be able to cover all of them, either. So, I’m going to cover two questions as one because they are related. I’ll use a real example from the case study series developed by Bridgespan Consulting and others so that readers can see how they interact.

How to make collaboration a priority and deal with egos

In a recent blog post by Rebecca Haag, the former CEO of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, the only way to start and sustain conversations between organizations is by checking egos at the door to focus on better outcomes for clients. By turning the conversation from “how will this affect me” to “how does this enhance our organization’s ability to meet its mission” you will be able to reach higher and deeper to find solutions.

Haag’s words of wisdom are wonderful guidance, but that doesn’t mean that egos won’t slip into conversations when you aren’t watching. That’s the value and beauty of a third-party facilitator—to rebalance the conversations to help the groups focus on the goals at hand.

Haag also talks about how to keep the collaboration a priority—by developing a strong strategic vision and plan. If you are just starting on a collaboration journey and looking for first steps to keep it going, develop several priorities to work toward. This will keep the team motivated and focused!

I hope you will read Haag’s blog and the associated case study as it shares many good lessons. And don’t get too hung up on whether collaboration will lead to merger. Focusing on organizational mission will lead you down the best path.

If you have tips on dealing with egos and keeping collaboration a priority, please share!

photo credit: jairoagua via photopin cc

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.