I have always been a massive advocate for collaboration between organizations.
Working together has always been at the heart of making meaningful change and is, in my opinion, the key to scaling impact in our sector. Not everyone, though, truly understands the benefits, and fewer still really know how to put such a collaboration together.
Let’s start by highlighting those benefits:
Together we do more—When organizations join forces, their collective efforts can achieve far more than what they could accomplish individually. Collaborative initiatives enable pooling of resources, expertise, and networks, resulting in a more significant impact on the causes they serve.
Conserving resources—Collaboration allows organizations to optimize their resources, both human and financial. Let’s face it, most of us run our programs on a very limited (and in some cases almost non-existent) budget. By sharing responsibilities and leveraging each other's strengths, social impact organizations can accomplish more with those limited resources, making their efforts more sustainable in the long run.
Providing holistic services—During the wildfires we experienced in B.C. (and across Canada) this past summer, collaboration between emergency response organizations, animal shelters, mental health providers and other organizations was essential. By working together, pooling their resources, and sharing facilities, these organizations made it possible for affected households to have access to everything they might need. This collaborative approach maximized the impact of relief efforts during these challenging times.
Increased visibility and awareness—Every April, I have the honour to co-host a community volunteer fair. Up to 30 different organizations come together in a local mall to recruit volunteers and raise awareness of the different services that are available in our community. Individual open houses and recruitment drives are useful, but having so many organizations get together in one place at one time draws far more attention from both potential supporters and from the media.
Strengthened advocacy—Collaborative partnerships provide a solid front for advocating for change. As with raising community awareness, social impact organizations can more effectively influence governmental policies and regulations when they speak with a unified voice.
So, assuming I have convinced you of the importance of collaboration, how do you go about setting up such a beast?
First, identify other organizations that have complementary goals. For example, a therapeutic riding association whose mission is to heal through horses could team up with a group that helps women survive domestic abuse. Learning to control a 1,000-pound animal can help the women feel more control in their daily lives. If organizations can clearly define the purpose of their partnership and articulate the common objectives they aim to achieve together, this shared vision serves as the foundation for the collaboration.
Build trust.Trust is the cornerstone of any successful collaboration. Establishing open and honest communication among participating organizations is vital. Transparency about goals, strategies, and decision-making processes fosters trust and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Leverage each other’s strengths. Every organization brings unique strengths to the table. It's essential to identify these and use them effectively within the collaboration. By understanding each other's expertise, resources, and networks, organizations can maximize their collective impact.
Develop clear communication channels. Open, regular, and respectful communication is key to any successful collaboration. Establishing effective communication channels, such as regular meetings, shared online platforms, and collaborative tools, facilitates the exchange of ideas, updates, and feedback among participating organizations.
Constantly improve and celebrate. Learning from challenges and setbacks helps the organizations continuously improve. Reflecting on obstacles faced and finding solutions together strengthens each individual organization as well as the collaboration itself. Equally important is celebrating achievements, no matter how small. It boosts morale and reinforces the value of collaboration. Both improvement and celebrations prepare organizations for future endeavours and challenges.
Collaboration between social impact organizations holds immense potential to dramatically scale impact in our communities. By recognizing the benefits of collaboration and following these steps, organizations can harness their collective power, scale their impact, and create a better world for all.
Together, we can achieve more and make a lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.