Every single charity was created by someone with the passion to solve a problem they saw.
Stretched to the point of breaking
In my experience, far more new programs and charities begin than end. Donations to charity in Canada have flatlined. This creates a perfect storm and means more competition for human (e.g., board volunteers and staff) and financial resources. Already lean charities are stretched to the point of breaking. If we are really going to improve our communities, we need to stop adding without taking anything away.
Taken individually, each charity is striving for noble purpose, however taken together I believe we are undermining the collective impact we could be having. So what is there to do? I believe we owe it to the people we serve to explore strategic alliances and restructuring in the search for ever more effective ways to achieve the purpose we pursue.
The Power of Possibility
This is board work and asks for boards and organization to put Stewardship of Mission ahead Stewardship of organization. ‘Nonprofit leaders are right to take their responsibility seriously. But sometimes in our efforts to serve our own organization and its work, we can become singularly focused on our own success or survival, and lose sight of how what we do fits into the bigger picture. How our work is impacted by the work of others. How our programs and goals overlap or intersect with other organizations. How we might be limited by current resources, programs, or scale. And – importantly – how our efforts could be accelerated and amplified by working together.’ –The Power of Possibility.
Local Proof Points
We have examples right here in our back yard! 20 years ago, Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Miramichi decided they needed to do more for children. Rather than take the usual path, they sought out an existing service/organization to complement their offering. Since then, they have blended programs from two national brands (Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters), offering streamlined services under the leadership of one Executive Director and Board of Directors. They serve children by providing a place for children to play and develop and at the same time connecting kids to positive role models, usually the same children. More recently in Moncton, the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters opted to find a partner organization rather than replace staff leader. With the help of the United Way of Greater Moncton South Eastern New Brunswick, they identified potential partners and the Moncton YWCA assumed the delivery of Big Brothers Big Sisters programming in the region.
Take advantage of natural ebbs
As can be seen from these two local examples, there are natural times in the experience of a charity delve into alternative models of serving client needs, namely when:
How to start the conversation
Back to the board. Here are some great questions you can ask to begin to explore whether strategic and structural alliance might be for you.
As a nonprofit board or staff member, you have a tremendous responsibility. As a leader of your organization, you are responsible for keeping your organization strong. You are empowered with decision making that will impact your organization’s work long into the future. And you are entrusted with ensuring that your organization puts its core purpose and those who depend on it first. –Power of Possibility