Competition or Collaborative

This is a question I often ask myself.  Are we in the world of philanthropy working together or working against each other.  Are we in competition or in collaboration?

Lets say for an example that you work for a nonprofit that provides food for children in Africa. There are hundred of non-profits doing that vary thing why should I give my money (or why should I raise money) for you instead of another organization? I am really happy with many organizations that focus their organization on a specific niche group of people that they know how to serve or issue because it allows them to specialize. What about when two organizations that have a similar or overlapping missions do they go after the same dollars?

I know many nonprofits pride themselves on how collaborative they can be. And sometimes I believe this is true when you see a couple organizations coming together to serve a family in need, or an organization has a staff member who’s salary or work area is directed from an organization outside of the nonprofit.

I have found that when it comes to fundraising there is a very small amount sharing that is going on. Try calling up a local nonprofit and telling them that you would like to see a copy of their sponsorship levels and benefits (and don’t forget to tell them you work for a nonprofit) and you’ll get a no almost every time.

What do you think? Should nonprofits be open to collaboration and shared information on everything? Should nonprofits take a more serious business approach and see their partners as competition? Or is it a mix between the two?

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5 Responses to Competition or Collaborative

  1. Conor Byrne says:

    Really interesting post, and something that I have been planning on writing about too.

    I read recently that there was something like 7000 new charities registered in the USA last year! I just thought that was phenomenal. Is there a need? Or would people who are thinking of starting a charity be better served seeing who already exists with the same mission and joining forces. I’m all for the latter.

    I know recently a fundraiser I know got offended when a fundraiser, from a totally different market, asked how much they had raised so far this year. Now that’s just daft in my book.

    I would like to see non profits with similar missions come together more. Maybe even merge? Are our vested interests too powerful to allow us do that?

    Surely our goals in non profits is to end situation A or cure illness B, so ultimatly our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. Ok so the reality is that may never happen for most, but if we were to look at it that way well then maybe we would take the approach of together we can achieve more.

  2. I remember the days when there was lots of sharing of ideas. Once upon a time I could call up another organization and ask someone what they were doing around their direct marketing program or how they were using different technology solutions and could have a good long conversation.

    It’s sad to hear that that has changed.

    I know I benefited and learned about other ways of approaching a common fundraising situation by talking to others in the community. I also think that the business of fundraising grew as a result of that sharing.

  3. Ryan Shantz says:

    I love the idea of non-profits coming together to help strengthen each other and the communities that they serve. However, from reading the comments above it sounds like this is often met with hesitation. I suppose the question then becomes, how does this happen? I know the non-profits I walk with work within a close network of about 5-6 different non-profit organizations and loosely with many others beyond that. The foundation of this has always been relationship, both individually and organizationally. I think the first step is to meet and understand the hearts within other organizations and then to trust that they desire the best for your heart and organization as well. Hopefully with this trust a foundation can be set to begin to work more closely together.

  4. One of the reasons we founded our organization was because a similar organization in the area refused to collaborate with anyone. We have found collaboration to be incredibly enriching and credit our our tremendous success to our ever-expanding connections in the community. We have also made it clear to all that we would gladly work with the original organization. In fact, we actively refer people to them. We hear often about venomous comments from that direction. But we let those pass in the hopes that eventually we can work together because that would benefit our community.

  5. I am definitely in favor of collaboration. Being in competition with other organizations that are working towards the same goal as yours seems counter-intuitive. For Impact | The Suddes Group focuses on training and coaching non-profit organizations to raise money for their cause…. a cause that is often shared by more than one organization. We help our clients to focus on building relationships with donors/investors rather than worry about being in competition with other organizations for their money. As a company, we also provide many open-source training materials and ideas at http://www.forimpact.org/archive.

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