One of the most important tools a good consultant brings to a client is collaboration. After providing fund development consultation for over 15 years, my greatest success stories are those that involve clients collaborating. There are a multitude of reasons for collaboration amongst nonprofit agencies. First and foremost, efficiency and cost effectiveness. The greatest challenge for non profits is typically lack of sufficient funding, so teaming up with another agency to deliver services seems obvious. However, it is far from easy to convince clients to do so.
Choosing to “Go It Alone….”
Perhaps one of the problems is that people don’t often choose collaboration first. It could be part of the American culture, to “go it alone.” As a culture we often are not great sharers. We don’t like to share backyards, definitely do not like to share driveways. We don’t even carpool well. I have not decided if it is a cultural challenge or just individual preference.
The “Nobody Does What We Do” Mentality
However, I can say with certainty that “founders” are not great collaborators. The skills and fortitude that founders must have to persevere and launch their agency against all odds are not the same skills needed for collaboration. That notion that nobody does what we do drives founders to succeed, but becomes the obstacle to working with others. I know the minute I hear the words, “we are the only ones doing this,” that consulting will be difficult.
Speaking From Experience…
Jeffrey Byrne and I had worked together on and off over the several decades we’ve been running our businesses. Separately, our teams were missing one or two components to make us truly full-service. But by teaming up, we became a full-service resource development consultancy that offers a much stronger value to our clients than on our own. Both Jeffrey and I had to drop the “founders mentality” that prevents so many leaders from being receptive to collaboration, and ultimately growth.
My best advice to anyone interested in launching a new nonprofit organization? Spend as much time researching your concept as you do planning your launch just in case someone is out there already doing what you are considering. Then perhaps you can collaborate.
Considering a collaboration and have questions for Lisa? Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.