Several years ago, I was part of a team that was attempting to pull together health providers to better manage healthcare for the uninsured and under-insured. If you’ve ever been part of a team like that you know that it takes a while to build trust (and that trust can break down quicker than you can say ‘that agency stole my grant’).
Regardless, we knew it was worth it and we knew that the community would be better because of that partnership.
When was the last time your organization reached out to another agency with the goal of better meeting a community need. If it’s been in the past year, congratulations! Your community is better off because of it.
If not, are there some reasons why? Maybe your organization is the only one in your community serving that need. Maybe there aren’t other people who are open to partnerships. Or maybe there are opportunities that haven’t been explored yet.
Regardless, there are some things you can do to help you be ready when an opportunity presents itself.
First, make sure that you are cultivating a sense of trust and partnership within your agency. Perhaps it’s time for another team building exercise. Perhaps a need to have more interaction between different areas of your organization (especially if you tend to have silos). Building a trusting atmosphere within your organization can help when you start to reach out beyond your organization.
Next, identify other organizations that might be serving the same clientele as you are, but with a different program. In Louisville, Kentucky, where I live, there is a consortium of agencies that serve the needs of those with HIV / AIDS. They meet together regularly and collaborate when appropriate. The simple step of meeting together helps to build trust and see other organizations as collaborators rather than competitors.
Finally, do an honest assessment of your organizations strengths and weaknesses. Are their other agencies you’re connected with that would be a good complement to you? Reach out to them specifically and start to build bridges.
You may notice that I try to regularly partner with other consultants and coaches who serve nonprofits. I do really try to live out what I preach. For examples of this, feel free to visit The Nonprofit Academy to learn more about the Fall 2012 Telesummit I’m hosting. In addition, I’m partnering up with a few other consultants to build a program specifically designed to help leaders of small nonprofits raise the money they need, raise awareness, engage their boards and impact their client’s lives. Stay tuned for more information about this new resource.