A little over a decade ago, I took what started as a seasonal job with a locally owned company, but because I liked the company I ended up sticking with it in hopes of moving up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, the owner of the company was such a good boss and treated his employees so well, no one ever moved on, so even though I learned valuable transferrable skills and took on more responsibilities each year, I didn’t get the opportunity to get promoted or got the titles I was seeking.
That first year, I had the opportunity to meet the owner, John. I mentioned that I served on the Board of Directors for a social service agency in Northwest Portland, and John’s eyes lit up. He was well acquainted with the organization and had supported it in the past. I found that John and I had a great deal in common when it came to our philosophies about the environment, sustainability, and giving back to the community. When I had ideas that for products that I thought would sell well, or had an idea for a possible nonprofit I considered starting, he took the time to sit down and meet with me. Most employers won’t do that. That original conversation started a relationship that continues to this day.
Since that time, I have changed career paths, and John has become a friend and a mentor. The customer-centered philosophy and relationship management skills I used working for John has evolved into a donor-centered approach to development and fundraising.
John and I meet for coffee every once in a while to catch up and talk about the nonprofit sector, its problems, and the direction we believe it should be going. John, being on the Board for a local trust fund, has provided some valuable insights, and I am proud to say, is a bit of a fan of my business and how it works.
The last time John and I met for coffee, he told me about the direction the trust is going with groups it funds. It has met with nonprofit organizations in rural Oregon in an effort to initiate projects where diverse organizations work together to solve local problems in their communities. The groups the fund has gotten together are very receptive to the idea of collaboration, and according to John, they are more receptive than those in the metropolitan areas of the state. In our opinions, that is too bad because much more can be accomplished when organizations collaborate.
When organizations realize that they alleviate only part of the problems of their community, they can work with others to solve bigger issues, and they will find greater support from funding organizations and individuals. I see a great deal of opportunities for collaboration in the nonprofit sector. Whether organizations are different in mission, or have similar programs, groups should work together more. Major funders are looking to support collaborations that serve the whole community because they are looking at the bigger picture. They see a better investment when groups work together in a holistic approach rather than just funding part of the problem.
Be creative and think of ways that your organization can work with other groups. More will be accomplished, and you will find more support for your efforts.