Is Collaborating Really Beneficial?

By Al Lopez, March 28, 2013

In the last couple of years, as I have navigated around the nonprofit/public sector, I’ve observed very different levels of organizations that are willing to work together when it may be in the very best interest of the clients they serve and the mission they purport to have.

Having been a long time financial executive, I find that management of an organization is all about making the best use of your resources, seeking out and implementing best practices, and continuing to drive for improvement and efficiency – along with executing your mission.

For the most part, there seems to be acceptance of the fact that collaborating around some issues can have an impact on the clients and communities being served; in addition to the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of each individual organization.

However, there seems to be reluctance on how to best work some of these relationships. There definitely seems to be a trust factor that plays into conversations, if it’s felt that both organizations are “competing” for the same resources or clients.

Much like we tell our small business entrepreneur clients when considering a “partnership”, which does have a legal organizational implication, make sure everything is understood up front… how is the initiative mutually beneficial, what roles will each organization fulfill, and even under what circumstances will the working together cease.

Jane Wei-Skillern & Sonia Marciano wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review article The Networked Nonprofit, “networked nonprofits achieve their missions far more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably than they could have by working alone.”

We’ve been extremely fortunate with the partnerships we have developed here at EGBI. Besides the great relationships we have with the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce among others, we’ve also established some key ones where we deliver our training services.

Our bilingual Curso Empresarial is a product of a couple of pilots we ran in 2012 with Las Comadres Para Las Americas.  Those successful pilots led to expanded plans for 2013 and even some terrific recognition from Austin’s FuturoFund as their 2013 grantee. Our next class with Las Comadres is scheduled to begin on April 9th.

In addition, we are working with El Buen Samaritano to run a Curso Empresarial at their facility in south Austin for their clients. The cohort at El Buen will begin on May 14th.

Finally, our latest partnership involves entrepreneurial outreach to veterans as we work with The University of Texas-Pan Am Veteran’s Business Outreach Center.  The Entrepreneur Training Project for Veterans is scheduled to begin at EGBI’s Emerging Enterprises Business Development Center on April 4th.

Encourage start-up entrepreneurs you know to sign up… the next wave of classes will start in a couple to a few weeks!  Go to the bottom of our home page and register.

Through our partnerships, we have been able to expand our footprint and service offering. In a city with thousands of nonprofits, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Nonprofit collaborations can be very powerful if they are managed correctly. If you are a nonprofit thinking about collaborating with other organizations, check out Greenlights for Nonprofit Success’s Town Hall event on May 7th and explore national trends and local experiences with nonprofit collaborations and mergers.