Professional relationships in the nonprofit sector are very different from the business world and can be difficult to traverse- even if you have experience in this field. In the private sector competition drives most everything, so relationships between companies and their executives are fairly simple as they are always competing for customers and profit.
But the nonprofit sector is different.There are no stockholders and the ultimate vision for most nonprofits is the same: to make the world a better place. So we are working towards a common goal to help the same population, but there are still limited resources in this sector- so although there is a common goal, there will also be competition.
So how do we navigate the boundary between collaboration and competition within our relationships with other nonprofit professionals and organizations? Let’s take a closer look into why we compete, why we collaborate, and how to make it work.
Competition Between Nonprofits
Let’s be honest- competition can never be fully avoided. There will always be limited resources and organizations with similar services and programming. Organizations will always have to vie with each other for their donor bases and raising funds, competing for grants, and even in finding and retaining the best talent for their organization.
There is some benefit to this competition, though. Healthy competition can encourage organizations to push themselves to provide the greatest impact and enact best practices in donor stewardship. Competing for funds means that (ideally) the more effective organizations and the ones with the best ideas will be the ones grants and donors choose to fund. In this way, competition drives the best organizations to be able to grow and expand, and less effective organizations fall by the wayside.
Now, for the downside. Competition can waste time, energy, and funds that could be going to support important services and programming. When there are too many groups working towards the same goal, funds are dispersed and no one group is able to provide enough with their funding alone. And when programs overlap, they tend to be less effective and waste more resources. If the goal is to provide as many effective programs and services as possible for community members and constituents, competition between organizations can hinder the ability to do so.
Collaboration Between Nonprofits
Nonprofits collaborate with other organizations in an effort to provide the best and most comprehensive programs and services possible. Organizations are able to do more when they can pool resources, time, and manpower. When nonprofits collaborate to provide services, they are able to limit the amount of overlap and provide better programs that cover a wider reach than if they were to provide them individually. Good collaboration means more effective and efficient programs and services with a greater overall impact.
How to Collaborate
There is an unlimited amount of ways to collaborate with other nonprofit professionals to advance the missions of your nonprofit organizations. It will, however, take some creativity and time. Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming:
What are some ways that you have collaborated with other organizations? Share your stories and ideas below! We also always appreciate comments, questions, and concerns so we can continue to make our blog better for you!