In recent years, nonprofit leaders have shown an increasing interest in developing collaborative relationships with other organizations. Several factors motivate this interest, including: encouragement from major funders, a need to conserve resources, an opportunity to eliminate duplication of services and a strategy for increasing overall capacity.
While the interest may be high, the truth is this: collaborating is hard work. In fact, it is time-consuming, frustrating and requires a new set of relationship skills. The idea of giving up control, sharing resources and sacrificing sole credit for accomplishments goes against the instincts of a nonprofit leader charged with achieving their organization’s specific objectives.
Instead of a sharp, defensive focus on “what’s in it for my organization?”, collaboration calls for leaders to develop a shared vision that is inspiring and motivational as well as a sincere over-riding desire to achieve a greater impact.
The process of building a mutually beneficial and sustainable collaboration is multidimensional and requires vision, patience, determination, compromise and respect. It also requires the practical reality of setting common goals and outcomes, regular evaluation, ample resources as well as systems to support measurement, communications and finances.
At their best, collaborations amplify each organization's strengths, allowing them to do together what they never could have accomplished on their own. Ultimately, both collaborative partners are making a greater impact together than they ever could if working alone.
In other words, the “new math” for successful collaborations is 1+1 = 3.