by Mandy Pearce & Marie Palacios

20b4b816-badd-42c1-8262-8612f6734fbcWho should be around the table?

Sometimes it’s hard to begin a list of potential collaborators.

Sometimes it’s hard to narrow the list down to who you SHOULD be working with on programs and projects within your organization.  This is true of the for and nonprofit worlds. If you pay attention and network, you will probably have more great ideas on who to partner with than you can manage to execute. If you are new to your organization, you may need a little head start in thinking about who you should look for.

So how do you decide?  Start with these questions about potential collaborators and see where they lead you. 

  1. What community need/issues do the organizations share as a priority?
  2. What are current AND future projects or programs that could be made stronger with collaboration?
  3. What funding sources is each organization approaching?
  4. Rather than solicit funding for a project that includes the other organization as a mere line item, will a joint proposal generate larger support?
  5. Can a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) be drafted to clearly state the shared priorities, resources, roles, responsibilities, and time frame of the organizations who wish to collaborate?

I always encourage the organizations I work with to go through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis of their organization, staff and programs/projects every 6 months – 1 year. 2c2fd8f7-f041-45dd-ad30-43096fb3a741This allows for awareness of current and upcoming situations that can be utilized or overcome with intentional planning and awareness.

Once you have a list of potential partners, take a look at the SWOT analysis for the program, project or organization the proposed collaboration would target and try answering these questions.

  1. Will your collaboration solve (or address) any of the weaknesses or threats facing your organization?
  2. Will your collaboration bring to fruition any of the opportunities listed?
  3. Will your collaboration give your organization a competitive advantage or build upon its existing strengths?

If the potential collaboration doesn’t address any of the questions, then what is the reason behind the effort?  There could be very real reasons to collaborate, but do you know what they are and the strategy behind the effort?

We all know how fast paced the nonprofit world can get. We stay so busy we forget what day it is. We are always on alert for the next crisis and often wonder how long we can “keep things going.” In a world where underpaid staff and countless volunteers keep the organization alive, it’s only natural to expect turnover.

That’s why we need to be intentional in our collaborations and make sure that the decision makers are all part of those conversations. Be clear, be concise, and write down the details of your collaboration so that joint efforts can continue even in the face of organizational transitions. –

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