This can be an incredibly difficult question to answer!
Anyone in the nonprofit space can give you examples of wonderful collaborations they have been a part of where the outcome was far greater than either organization could have achieved on its own. These collaborative wins are fuel for high impact nonprofit missions – the veritable magic that can make 1+1=3 …or 4 …more.
And yet, anyone involved with nonprofit work can also give you examples of when collaboration was an organizational killer – the precipitating factor that derailed an organization’s mission, culture, or effectiveness. Collaborating on the wrong projects or executing collaborative efforts poorly can result in mission creep, stretching an organization too thin and diluting their impact.
Maybe this is due to concerns over other timely threats (the economy, foreign military conflicts, the rising cost of living) or sheer fatigue from being on guard for so long. Or maybe it’s because respected health organizations like the WHO have announced that the end of the pandemic is near. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause.
But regardless of what’s driving it, most of society seems to be largely ignoring COVID at this point. People are gathering with friends and loved ones, traveling again for leisure and for business, and expecting that in-person events are going to be held like they were before. Office work may continue to be remote or hybrid, but in all other areas we are back to a face-to-face culture.
This perspective shift is important for nonprofit organizations to understand if they are going to continue to be effective, and here's why:
The most shocking part about that excerpt is that the article was written in January of 2020. This goes to show that rapid change in the nonprofit space was happening long before the pandemic hit. And in today’s post-COVID world, change has only accelerated further.
In fact, recent research from Ernst & Young in collaboration with Oxford University indicates that 85% of senior leaders have been involved in two or more major organizational transformations over the last 5 years, with 67% of those surveyed indicating that at least one of the transformations they have been a part of has underperformed relative to expectations.
COVID-19 and the all the stress that surrounds it has made for a very uncertain time for many social service organizations. Lockdowns kept us from connecting with the people who count on our services. Many offices had to move to remote work plans. Fundraisers had to be reinvented as “virtual” or cancelled all together. We all know these and many more unsettling realities about our world since March of 2020.
In the beginning of all this, we prided ourselves on “pivoting” to be able to bridge and adapt to changing realities. Now we are sick and tired of pivoting. In reality, many of us are just…sick and tired.
Like our mothers always told us though (or at least mine did), there can be a silver lining if you are open to finding it.
2020 was truly a váltás, a time to pivot, think outside the box, adapt, and change from one direction or place to another. Few will look back on this year with fond memories; however, many will recall how resilience, empathy, and a deep commitment to one another was demonstrated in both small moments and big ways.
I have been thinking about the last crisis in 2008, how it impacted nonprofit organizations, and what lessons could be learned. I reached out to several people who I thought would provide good perspective, people who have served on many boards and as funders. In this post, they offer their insights from the last crisis as well as thoughts about this one.
I interviewed in alphabetical order: (See bios below.)
“Editor’s note: Our community includes many exceptional leaders. From time to time, Valtas gives voice to them by including their commentary in our blog. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!”
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