social media etiquette, social media strategy

Nonprofit Collaboration: Doesn’t It Make the Pie Bigger?

64 Comments 16 February 2010

Image courtesy of lumaxart

In the digital age, no one is interested in only your services and products. We’ve grown up in a competitive world. But now it’s a cooperative world: coopetition is becoming the means to success.  We are no longer isolated geographically, culturally, or demographically. Nonprofits may serve local clientele, but their online presence is global. I know that it’s counter-intuitive to recommend your competitors. But in the Web 2.0 world, it’s exactly what the culture demands. I contend that nonprofits must, and should, be ready to retweet, repost, and support competitors online.  Why?

Collaboration doesn’t mean you’re fighting over scarcity of resources. It means you’re making the resource pie bigger.

I’ll go ahead and write the objection that I hear you saying out loud, right now: We’re all competing for limited pools of resources.

Answer: That’s been true for a long time, and it will always be the case. However, through collaborative efforts, you have the potential to bring in even more traffic, clients, and funding sources.

Joe Waters, of Six Figure Cause Marketing, says that he is trying to convince nonprofits to collaborate with cause marketing. He tells me via twitter: “Trying to do that w/cause marketing. Working w/other npos for mutual benefit. 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.” Right on.

Two great examples:

John Haydon, a social media consultant, works with nonprofits to help them get more customers, build communities, and increase awareness. Not only that, but he sends out an auto-DM to his twitter followers recommending other consultants. He’s even recommended me, and I’m in the same consulting space as him.

Here’s the beauty of what John Haydon has done – he’s expanded the pie, not cut it into smaller pieces. Every one of the consultants he recommends can potentially collaborate with him on a project, refer projects to him. etc. I’m sure he’s also gotten leads and traffic from those he’s recommended as well. Can your nonprofit create an auto-DM recommending other great local nonprofits to follow?

28 Days, 28 Ideas is an effort of 31 Days, 31 Ideas, eJewish Philanthropy, the JTA, Jewcy, Jewschool, Sisterhood@the Forward and the Jewish Federations of North America. They have banded together this February to create a platform to share one great idea a day for helping the Jewish world. 28 Days, 28 Ideas is also intended to expose media outlets to each others’ readership.  Each organization is posting its ideas, and contributing to the 28 Days, 28 Ideas blog (which the twitter stream promotes). By doing so, they are reaching new audiences, and gathering ideas that could benefit everyone. The participatory organizations are actually making a new pie – Jewish social ventures – that they are now associated with creating!

An award-winning offline example:

EmployAlliance is a collaborative project that won the US Secretary of Labor’s 5th Anniversary New Freedom Initiative Award. It is a collaboration among six nonprofits that find employment leads for their disabled clients. As Dave Stevens, a career counselor at the Chicago Lighthouse mentions, “I now work with people who are blind, so when I get a job requiring sight, instead of letting it go fallow, I pass it along to other local agencies for people with disabilities via EmployAlliance, which in Chicago is under the Chamber of Commerce.”

I’m sure each of these organizations demonstrates success through the number of clients successfully placed. They probably also compete for similar funds. However, together, they are a stronger recruiting team than apart. Make the pie as big as it can get!

Remember that social media is about sharing and giving. Mention great blog posts that your competitors write on your nonprofit’s blog. Share good posts to your nonprofit’s Facebook Page. Tweet about the great work other nonprofits in your town are doing. Support each other’s Linkedin groups.

Get rid of the idea of competition, and embrace the idea of coopetition. Mmmm, more pie.

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  • neil licht

    Yes it does. I have been trying to get a great fundraising idea that doesn’t compete at all, yields predictable and reliable revenue and nearly anyone in the world can participate as in donate.

    It doesn’t cost anything yet it also does not add any added spending to the donor. It doesn’t require staff either because its on line and automatic.

    Imagine if we could all do this, espescially in an unfriendly fundraising environment like we have now and probably for years to come.

    Neil Licht ndlicht@verizon.net

    [Reply]

  • I totally agree and always say this to incredulous looks at hungry non-profits. But it’s true!

    I worked with a coalition of Habitat affiliates for many years and we always found that more funds were able to be accessed by working collaboratively on the ask than if they tried to muscle one another out.

    Because funding is ‘donors choice,’ an organization never knows when they’re about to be excluded. Stepping up to collaboration is a way to dazzle them into your next great act!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Heidi-
    I have made the exact same suggestions to nonprofits and received the same incredulous looks. (Partly the inspiration for this blog post, in fact, was one such conversation). Thanks for offering a concrete example of how collaboration between potential competitors actually led to increased funding. Awesome example!

    [Reply]

  • I totally agree and always say this to incredulous looks at hungry non-profits. But it’s true!

    I worked with a coalition of Habitat affiliates for many years and we always found that more funds were able to be accessed by working collaboratively on the ask than if they tried to muscle one another out.

    Because funding is ‘donors choice,’ an organization never knows when they’re about to be excluded. Stepping up to collaboration is a way to dazzle them into your next great act!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Heidi-
    I have made the exact same suggestions to nonprofits and received the same incredulous looks. (Partly the inspiration for this blog post, in fact, was one such conversation). Thanks for offering a concrete example of how collaboration between potential competitors actually led to increased funding. Awesome example!

    [Reply]

  • Saahil

    Very Interesting Blog. I agree, collaboration can lead to much greater results. I know of many Non Profit organisations in India, that have registered on JaagoRe. This site gives these organisations a platform to talk about their work. They can find volunteers on this site.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Saahil,
    Thanks for letting us know about JaagoRe, which I hadn’t heard of. Thanks also for stopping by and commenting!

    [Reply]

  • Saahil

    Very Interesting Blog. I agree, collaboration can lead to much greater results. I know of many Non Profit organisations in India, that have registered on JaagoRe. This site gives these organisations a platform to talk about their work. They can find volunteers on this site.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Saahil,
    Thanks for letting us know about JaagoRe, which I hadn’t heard of. Thanks also for stopping by and commenting!

    [Reply]

  • Hi, Debra —

    Although my organization, the Museum Association of New York (MANY), is a social networking infant, we use our Facebook page to feature the work of museums of all types across New York State. With a sister organization, the Upstate History Alliance, we sponsor the only statewide museum conference and after about a decade of working together we unveiled a free-standing conference website (www.museumsinconversations.org), created a series of emailed promotions, and are using our respective Facebook pages to talk about conference features. I’ll start Twittering about the conference this week on MANY’s new Twitter account.

    While this example isn’t as broad as the ones you discussed in your post, I can envision greater and deeper collaborations across the nonprofit sector using social networking as the link.

    [Reply]

  • Hi, Debra —

    Although my organization, the Museum Association of New York (MANY), is a social networking infant, we use our Facebook page to feature the work of museums of all types across New York State. With a sister organization, the Upstate History Alliance, we sponsor the only statewide museum conference and after about a decade of working together we unveiled a free-standing conference website (www.museumsinconversations.org), created a series of emailed promotions, and are using our respective Facebook pages to talk about conference features. I’ll start Twittering about the conference this week on MANY’s new Twitter account.

    While this example isn’t as broad as the ones you discussed in your post, I can envision greater and deeper collaborations across the nonprofit sector using social networking as the link.

    [Reply]

  • Debra – Thanks for including me in this!

    I love the example of the Jewish orgs banding together on one platform to create greater awareness for the whole.

    When white water rafters want to get to their destination safer and sooner, the strap together all of their rafts into a single monstrous raft that can defeat any river!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    John,
    The white water rafting analogy is wonderfully visual and exactly fits the situation. Thanks for this great visual. In tough times, organizations often become even more guarded about sharing resources. It’s counter-intuitive to think about banding together when resources are scarce, but your analogy is the argument against it.

    [Reply]

  • Debra – Thanks for including me in this!

    I love the example of the Jewish orgs banding together on one platform to create greater awareness for the whole.

    When white water rafters want to get to their destination safer and sooner, the strap together all of their rafts into a single monstrous raft that can defeat any river!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    John,
    The white water rafting analogy is wonderfully visual and exactly fits the situation. Thanks for this great visual. In tough times, organizations often become even more guarded about sharing resources. It’s counter-intuitive to think about banding together when resources are scarce, but your analogy is the argument against it.

    [Reply]

  • What a great concept, Debra! As someone who helps manage a corporate philanthropy budget–more often than not assumed to be larger than it really is–I’ll tell you it can be frustrating and confusing to be approached by requests from multiple organizations with the same missions and areas of operations. Which one to fund? Who’s doing the best work? Where are the redundancies and inefficiencies that are _surely_ there? There’s a temptation (rarely acted upon) to tell all of them, “When you guys get this sorted out, come back and we’ll consider it.”

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ed-
    Love it! And why couldn’t you tell them that? See my next response.

    Tracy –
    I was part of a coalition that The Boston Foundation funded to make 12 different advocacy organizations work together. In some ways, it was exactly on target: we found ways to collaborate, gathered new resources, etc. The problem was that we were all hand-picked to participate in the coalition, and many of those organizations would never have chosen to collaborate. It certainly meant that some of the orgs wouldn’t continue to collaborate after the funding ended (they didn’t), but it also meant that we got a lot accomplished by working together.

    I think it’s really a question of changing attitude: in the 90s, our coalition didn’t even think about coopetition. Now, I really think every organization should think about it, in light of the universal world in which we now participate. I’d love to see more conversation on this blog about this issue of funders urging coopetition/collaboration vs. emerging from the advocacy organization’s desire to do so. I would imagine that the beneifts of the latter suggestion outweigh the benefits of the former. Ed – you have any thoughts on this?

    Great ideas, everyone! Thanks for contributing 🙂

    [Reply]

  • Tracy Moavero

    Collaboration is common among issue advocacy nonprofits. We can’t accomplish much without it, especially the many nonprofits who don’t have big budgets or huge memberships.

    I worked for years on arms control and nuclear disarmament issues, and foundations have been known to common on the particularly high level of collaboration. Each has a niche: physicians, women’s, faith based, former weapons facility workers, youth, policy experts, grassroots activists, and so on. Understanding that we’re all building a movement, not just organizations, is key as well. Not to mention that we know that our memberships overlap anyhow.

    More popular issues attract more money, but also more nonprofits. Sometimes too many doing the same thing. I can see how that would make issue nonprofits competitive. Another reason that setting up new nonprofits needs careful thought. Sometimes it’s better to support existing efforts.

    [Reply]

  • What a great concept, Debra! As someone who helps manage a corporate philanthropy budget–more often than not assumed to be larger than it really is–I’ll tell you it can be frustrating and confusing to be approached by requests from multiple organizations with the same missions and areas of operations. Which one to fund? Who’s doing the best work? Where are the redundancies and inefficiencies that are _surely_ there? There’s a temptation (rarely acted upon) to tell all of them, “When you guys get this sorted out, come back and we’ll consider it.”

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ed-
    Love it! And why couldn’t you tell them that? See my next response.

    Tracy –
    I was part of a coalition that The Boston Foundation funded to make 12 different advocacy organizations work together. In some ways, it was exactly on target: we found ways to collaborate, gathered new resources, etc. The problem was that we were all hand-picked to participate in the coalition, and many of those organizations would never have chosen to collaborate. It certainly meant that some of the orgs wouldn’t continue to collaborate after the funding ended (they didn’t), but it also meant that we got a lot accomplished by working together.

    I think it’s really a question of changing attitude: in the 90s, our coalition didn’t even think about coopetition. Now, I really think every organization should think about it, in light of the universal world in which we now participate. I’d love to see more conversation on this blog about this issue of funders urging coopetition/collaboration vs. emerging from the advocacy organization’s desire to do so. I would imagine that the beneifts of the latter suggestion outweigh the benefits of the former. Ed – you have any thoughts on this?

    Great ideas, everyone! Thanks for contributing 🙂

    [Reply]

  • Tracy Moavero

    Collaboration is common among issue advocacy nonprofits. We can’t accomplish much without it, especially the many nonprofits who don’t have big budgets or huge memberships.

    I worked for years on arms control and nuclear disarmament issues, and foundations have been known to common on the particularly high level of collaboration. Each has a niche: physicians, women’s, faith based, former weapons facility workers, youth, policy experts, grassroots activists, and so on. Understanding that we’re all building a movement, not just organizations, is key as well. Not to mention that we know that our memberships overlap anyhow.

    More popular issues attract more money, but also more nonprofits. Sometimes too many doing the same thing. I can see how that would make issue nonprofits competitive. Another reason that setting up new nonprofits needs careful thought. Sometimes it’s better to support existing efforts.

    [Reply]

  • Thanks! I also can think of several other analogies for people who can’t swim. 😉

    [Reply]

  • Thanks! I also can think of several other analogies for people who can’t swim. 😉

    [Reply]

  • Debra, great article. It’s so true that the social web has made collaboration even more of a necessity. Too many of the “big” nonprofits are afraid of something as simple as RTing valuable content from nonprofits they see as competitors.

    I love the comment that Tracy Moavero made about advocacy organizations “Understanding that we’re all building a movement” – I think they get this better then most – but even some of these guys can be short sighted about sharing if a specific collation hasn’t already been formed.

    I’m going to look into the DM recommendations a la John Haydon for my clients.

    Thanks for making me think deeper about something I do every day 🙂

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Brenna,
    Your comment reminds me of a meeting that I had with a client recently. I mentioned that it’s important to RT things your competitors (that you admire) say. If you do that, it increases the spirit of generosity, and these “competitors” are more than likely to promote your content to their 1,000s of followers. Win-win, eh? I am pretty sure I didn’t convince the client of that, unfortunately.

    Agree with you 100% that Tracy’s comment is right on: we ARE all building a movement. How can we do that without each other?
    Thank you for continuing to read, comment, and extend the blog posts.

    [Reply]

  • Debra, great article. It’s so true that the social web has made collaboration even more of a necessity. Too many of the “big” nonprofits are afraid of something as simple as RTing valuable content from nonprofits they see as competitors.

    I love the comment that Tracy Moavero made about advocacy organizations “Understanding that we’re all building a movement” – I think they get this better then most – but even some of these guys can be short sighted about sharing if a specific collation hasn’t already been formed.

    I’m going to look into the DM recommendations a la John Haydon for my clients.

    Thanks for making me think deeper about something I do every day 🙂

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Brenna,
    Your comment reminds me of a meeting that I had with a client recently. I mentioned that it’s important to RT things your competitors (that you admire) say. If you do that, it increases the spirit of generosity, and these “competitors” are more than likely to promote your content to their 1,000s of followers. Win-win, eh? I am pretty sure I didn’t convince the client of that, unfortunately.

    Agree with you 100% that Tracy’s comment is right on: we ARE all building a movement. How can we do that without each other?
    Thank you for continuing to read, comment, and extend the blog posts.

    [Reply]

  • Debra, I consider myself a pragmatist (although certainly not a cynic). As such, I love that you tackled head-on the most likely objection — the limited nature of resources — and acknowledged its importance and reality, but didn’t allow it to derail your argument, but rather to strengthen it as a reason collaboration. Truly manifesting a mentality of abundance rather than scarcity.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Joe-
    I’m very flattered! Thank You. Now, if we can all think about abundance versus scarcity, right? Think about what the world would be like…

    [Reply]

  • Debra, I consider myself a pragmatist (although certainly not a cynic). As such, I love that you tackled head-on the most likely objection — the limited nature of resources — and acknowledged its importance and reality, but didn’t allow it to derail your argument, but rather to strengthen it as a reason collaboration. Truly manifesting a mentality of abundance rather than scarcity.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Joe-
    I’m very flattered! Thank You. Now, if we can all think about abundance versus scarcity, right? Think about what the world would be like…

    [Reply]

  • Again, we don’t have such a large cash budget that we believe we can offer quite so much influence. Plus, we understand that, whether in for-profit or non-profit organizations, we’re all working toward _organizational_ objectives (broader missions notwithstanding). And as is alluded to above, there are some great examples of non-profits working together (current efforts among hunger groups toward influencing the shape of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act would be a good example).
    With that being said, I predict you’re going to see some experiments in collaboration among _funders_ toward encouraging more non-profit cooperation (I love your term “coopetition”). There are already some larger hunger relief funders (some of us competitors in the marketplace) having informal discussions about how we can work together to influence more efficiency and collaborative work among the non-profits we fund.
    Finally, I think we could potentially see the influence of “super-funders” (The Gates Foundation, The Wal-Mart Foundation, et.al.) come into play in this area, rewarding organizations that take the initiative to form collaborative efforts.
    Great topic. Thanks for allowing me to comment.

    [Reply]

  • Again, we don’t have such a large cash budget that we believe we can offer quite so much influence. Plus, we understand that, whether in for-profit or non-profit organizations, we’re all working toward _organizational_ objectives (broader missions notwithstanding). And as is alluded to above, there are some great examples of non-profits working together (current efforts among hunger groups toward influencing the shape of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act would be a good example).
    With that being said, I predict you’re going to see some experiments in collaboration among _funders_ toward encouraging more non-profit cooperation (I love your term “coopetition”). There are already some larger hunger relief funders (some of us competitors in the marketplace) having informal discussions about how we can work together to influence more efficiency and collaborative work among the non-profits we fund.
    Finally, I think we could potentially see the influence of “super-funders” (The Gates Foundation, The Wal-Mart Foundation, et.al.) come into play in this area, rewarding organizations that take the initiative to form collaborative efforts.
    Great topic. Thanks for allowing me to comment.

    [Reply]

  • Debra,
    Always a ruckus when someone suggest collaboration. But clearly we are all on to something because every blog post on it, every conversation on it is filled with commentary. I think over time, even those resistant to collaboration will eventually see the value. I too love John’s white water rafting example-such a perfect visual. I believe incorrect assumptions regarding scarce resources/turf is clearly the obstacle. Now if we can just all collaborate on getting nonprofits to collaborate, it will really start to happen system wide! 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    [Reply]

  • Debra,
    Always a ruckus when someone suggest collaboration. But clearly we are all on to something because every blog post on it, every conversation on it is filled with commentary. I think over time, even those resistant to collaboration will eventually see the value. I too love John’s white water rafting example-such a perfect visual. I believe incorrect assumptions regarding scarce resources/turf is clearly the obstacle. Now if we can just all collaborate on getting nonprofits to collaborate, it will really start to happen system wide! 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for getting this conversation going – there’s obviously a lot of interest and a core group (getting larger all the time 🙂 that would like to see more of a shift from competition to collaboration. It is a changing of attitude, but also the need to change the systems of funding and other support that push organizations in this direction. The more people working to change that, the better the opportunities for change!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for getting this conversation going – there’s obviously a lot of interest and a core group (getting larger all the time 🙂 that would like to see more of a shift from competition to collaboration. It is a changing of attitude, but also the need to change the systems of funding and other support that push organizations in this direction. The more people working to change that, the better the opportunities for change!

    [Reply]

  • Bonnie,

    Right on!!! As Erika just tweeted: SEACHANGE!

    [Reply]

  • Bonnie,

    Right on!!! As Erika just tweeted: SEACHANGE!

    [Reply]

  • I love conversations like this. I want to thank all of you for keeping it rolling. It obviously has struck a chord somehow, and for that I’m glad. What is the next step? How do we shift the attitude from competition to collaboration (as Bonnie states), to an attitude of abundance (thank you Joe) and towards a SEACHANGE (thank you Erika, Heidi K.)?

    [Reply]

  • I love conversations like this. I want to thank all of you for keeping it rolling. It obviously has struck a chord somehow, and for that I’m glad. What is the next step? How do we shift the attitude from competition to collaboration (as Bonnie states), to an attitude of abundance (thank you Joe) and towards a SEACHANGE (thank you Erika, Heidi K.)?

    [Reply]

  • Shoshanna

    HI Debra-

    As someone who works with many different non profs, I see the wisdom in this from many sides. I also see the resistance. But soon, very soon, that resistance which tries to retain more of the pie for ‘us’ will be the very thing that loses it.

    Donors- from individuals to foundations- want to see that nonprofs are using their resources to the best of their ability, even when that means giving up some of the control, or collaborating with someone who might ‘do it better’ or be in a position to make it happen faster. Donors want to see that the bottom line cause- helping those we claim to help- is more important than getting the credit, otherwise it rings false and then, we lose the donor- to someone who is willing to share.

    It is a hard concept for many, but one which isn’t going away.

    Bottom line is that we all have our abilities, and working together makes us stronger, better, even if it means moving over-

    [Reply]

  • Shoshanna

    HI Debra-

    As someone who works with many different non profs, I see the wisdom in this from many sides. I also see the resistance. But soon, very soon, that resistance which tries to retain more of the pie for ‘us’ will be the very thing that loses it.

    Donors- from individuals to foundations- want to see that nonprofs are using their resources to the best of their ability, even when that means giving up some of the control, or collaborating with someone who might ‘do it better’ or be in a position to make it happen faster. Donors want to see that the bottom line cause- helping those we claim to help- is more important than getting the credit, otherwise it rings false and then, we lose the donor- to someone who is willing to share.

    It is a hard concept for many, but one which isn’t going away.

    Bottom line is that we all have our abilities, and working together makes us stronger, better, even if it means moving over-

    [Reply]

  • First of all, more pie is always a good thing! 🙂

    Maybe this is kind of outfield, but I have this same conversation a lot related to social policy work–organizations/advocates claiming that they have to compete with other good causes/needs/organizations for the (very) restricted funding, when the reality is that doing good, concerted advocacy is the best way to change the conversation about social needs and their priority in the budget. That means lending one’s reputation to another’s cause, and leveraging your relationships for other issues, but it also means not pitting your priority against theirs, which can ultimately change how we think about the interconnection of social problems and the complex strategies needed to solve them.

    [Reply]

  • First of all, more pie is always a good thing! 🙂

    Maybe this is kind of outfield, but I have this same conversation a lot related to social policy work–organizations/advocates claiming that they have to compete with other good causes/needs/organizations for the (very) restricted funding, when the reality is that doing good, concerted advocacy is the best way to change the conversation about social needs and their priority in the budget. That means lending one’s reputation to another’s cause, and leveraging your relationships for other issues, but it also means not pitting your priority against theirs, which can ultimately change how we think about the interconnection of social problems and the complex strategies needed to solve them.

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: Sharing the Wealth « Judicious Web()

  • To go down the road of collaboration requires a serious gut check on the part of nonprofits and their leaders. To wit, is it about your organization or is it about your cause? If the latter, than checking egos at the collaborative door should not be hard to do.

    [Reply]

  • To go down the road of collaboration requires a serious gut check on the part of nonprofits and their leaders. To wit, is it about your organization or is it about your cause? If the latter, than checking egos at the collaborative door should not be hard to do.

    [Reply]

  • Hi Anne-
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful example of how you use your Facebook page to feature all types of museums. The big question for me is – would the other museums use their Facebook pages to feature each other? That would be taking collaboration past the level of industry associations. Do you think they would do that – or be interested in seeing what that could bring for them? I loves watching the #museummonday Twitter hashtag, and thought that might be yet another example of museums collaborating. Was MANY involved in that in any way?

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your Facebook page and website. Great sites!

    [Reply]

  • Shoshana,
    What a great comment to add to the post. I agree with your two perspectives. One thing I'd add that I've seen is that, while donors are more interested in seeing nonprofits work together, it doesn't always mean that it's a good collaboration. Perhaps the resistance that tries to retain more pie will be the very thing that loses it – perhaps a hard lesson will come out of it – but scarcity mentality is, sadly, hard to change. I do hope it does change, though. Imagine a world of abundance!

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  • Melinda,
    Spot on. I have also seen this in advocacy work. When I was a tenant organizer, we tried to get a statewide form of rent control law passed (a modified form of rent control for rent-stabilized apartments). There was, as you can imagine, a lot of opposition, and even the organizations that would naturally support it were worried that by supporting this, they were also jettisoning other advocacy priorities of theirs. In all fairness, this may be the case in politics. However, what if we had all worked together on BOTH of our issues? Many times, this is how politicians get their own policy work passed, right?

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  • Hi Joe,
    Wise comment. Even if it is about your organization, sometimes the organization can benefit in the long run from collaboration than by working on its own. However, if it is about the cause, checking egos at the collaborative door should be easy. So why isn't it?

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  • Thanks for this excellent post, Debra! Collaboration is one of my key focus areas for this year and am so happy to have a post like yours to add to the mix 🙂

    Something I want to add is that collaboration isn't just about resolving the conflict between scarcity of resources vs resource sharing, but about lots of organizations fighting for impact vs a comprehensive approach to real change. When we work together, the idea of actually ending poverty, fighting policies, stopping the spread of curable diseases, and so on is actually, really, REALLY doable. And that more than anything inspires me to advocate for collaboration within my own work and the work of others.

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  • I have often found it unfortunate how some in the nonprofit sector have been more reluctant than the business sector to embrace coopetition. In the business sector coopetition must lead to a bigger pie being shared positively by ALL parties to call it a real cooptetition success. In the nonprofit sector however, coopetition ought to be considered a success if the pie gets larger even if some players lose some of the pie they had.

    Consider the differences in following two basic scenarios.

    1. Through coopetion the number of clients in a business sector went up. As a result, the number of clients at Business A went up by 75% but at Business B it went down by 10%. Business B is not likely going to call this a success.

    2. Through coopetion the number of clients that were able to be served at foodbanks in a city went up. As a result of working together though, Foodbank A's clientele went up by 75% but Foodbank B's clientele went down by 10%. Foodbank B should still call this a success given that their mission is that “fewer people go hungry” and not that “fewer people go hungry because we fed them”.

    The point is that for nonprofits with a mission that is truly anchored on the greater good, the risk of coopetition is even less than it is the corporate world where it already embraced by a large number of successful organizations.

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  • zionaetzion

    Love this Debra…this is how my network grew so fast…

    This is my belief …. the power of us altogether is the factor
    that will bring about change!

    Only by joining our minds and hearts can we be of true
    value to ourselves and one another.

    [Reply]

  • Debra — Just posted your questions our the MANY Facebook page with link to this post (of course)! You're right — one or two organizations using social media to co-promote is a small step; tying a raft of organizations together, to use John Haydon's analogy, is when potential and real impact can truly be harnessed.

    Anne

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  • Tony- I couldn't have said it better myself. I think this is similar to what Joe said earlier – if you are focused on the cause, not the organization, then coopetition is an easy “yes.” However, more often than not, organizations enter into cooperative or collaborative relationships because the pie will grow larger. The chance that it won't usually means that the idea is nixed by both parties. This is where funders might have the upper hand- they tend to keep the larger mission/cause in mind, and could promote both organizational coopetition and the cause through successful collaborative funding.

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  • Thanks, Ziona!

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  • Wow, Anne thanks! I'll check in to the Facebook page and check out the conversation.

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  • Sean

    Great Comments!! 🙂 Thanks for getting this conversation going on your blog Debra!

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  • Pingback: Welcome to the Cooperative World | eJewish Philanthropy: The Jewish Philanthropy Blog()

  • Hi Amy-
    Sorry I missed this comment, or I would have replied earlier! I remember that collaboration is one of your goals for this year, and have been following your thoughts on the topic as well.

    The comments on this post have mentioned the fact that working together on a cause should be the goal of collaboration, but that often organizations' egos get in the way of collaboration. More and more, from the comments on this post (including yours), I realize that the way to promote collaboration is to emphasize the fact that bringing together resources makes accomplishing the mission really doable. Now, how can we create a sea change mentality from one of scarcity of resources to the fact that we all have an abundance of resources?

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  • You're welcome – glad it inspired you!

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  • Pingback: Guest Post by Ed Nicholson: Collaboration from the Funder’s Perspective | Community Organizer 2.0()

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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