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A New Way to Work: Six Takeaways on Nonprofit Resource Sharing

October 31, 2016 by Katie Edwards0

For most people, sharing resources – whether it be office space, accounting staff, or a common kitchen – is a new way to work.  With the release of the Streamlining Social Good report and our recent webinar on the same topic, I’ve been thinking a lot about my biggest takeaways from this convening and what I would tell other people

  • Take initiative: People are more likely to share or help those who have helped them in the past. If your organization is in the position, reach out to a potential partner and find a small way to help them achieve their goals. Even a small gesture can be the first step to a larger partnership.
  • Encourage courageous leadership: Innovation requires risk, but in the nonprofit sector, our funding and governance structures exist to limit risk. There’s a belief that taking risks means we aren’t being good stewards of the public’s trust or donation. We need leaders that innovate in spite of the challenging environment.
  • Celebrate failure: In many other fields, “failure” is a valuable learning experience. For example. if a scientific experiment hadn’t failed, we never would have learned about penicillin and saved countless lives. In the nonprofit sector, failure isn’t something we discuss often, but we should. How else are we to know what strategies might not work.
  • Invest in educating your board and the boards of your partners: As a new concept, sharing resources can be difficult for all volunteer boards to understand. Show examples. Tour shared spaces. Ask for testimonials of the impact of sharing and collaborating from other partner agencies. Resource sharing is a concept that must be socialized.
  • Understand what your potential partners really value: If you’re facing resistance from potential partners, take the time to listen to them. How can sharing resources support what they value? Active listening may also reveal that they are conflating multiple issues, which you can help untangle.
  • Be open to new connections: Nonprofit staff and boards should ask themselves annually “What partnerships or strategic collaborations would help us meet our mission?” It’s very easy to fall into the trap of status quo bias. We need to continually network and consider new ways to work with others.

Interested in learning more about the barriers to resource sharing? Download the Streamlining Social Good Report today.

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About Our Blogger:

Katie Edwards

Katie connects NCN members with the resources they need to make their projects a success. She holds an M.P.A. in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University, where she studied nonprofit co-location as part of her coursework. Katie’s research background and her first-hand experience with the Co-location Task Force for the Indianapolis’ Early Intervention and Prevention Initiative give her a unique perspective on shared spaces and nonprofit centers.


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