Nonprofits and New Networks

Posted by on Oct 19, 2011 in Managing Not-For-Profit Organizations

With the challenging economy, non-profits are facing a turbulent time. Although not as harsh as in 2008, the environment is pushing for a change in organizational operations. This may be difficult  for non-profit organizations to face after years of conducting business as usual.

Recently the Alliance for Children and Families conducted a study on disruptive forces for human services organizations within the non-profit sector. The study pinpoints six driving forces that organizations will need to adjust to in order to survive.

These forces include purposeful experimentation, information liberation, integrating science, demand for impact, branding causes and attracting investors. All are explained further in the study, which can be found here. The common thread between all of these is the dependence on network collaboration.

This report emphasizes the need to shift away from an all-for-themselves mentality, and move toward creating mutually beneficial partnerships that can enhance the effectiveness of each organization. Collaboration can be difficult and this shift from an individualistic to collective outlook faces many challenges.

For one, focusing on collaboration is difficult when understaffing and diminishing budgets threaten daily operations. Many of the non-profits in Buffalo work to keep their doors open and their cause alive. Forecasting about future partnerships can be secondary to serving those that seek their services.

In addition, shifting organizations from being competitors to being partners can be difficult. Groups of non-profits vie for the same funding and donor money. Looking at them as potential partners may seem unreasonable. That may be why less that 1 percent of NPOs have merged with one another, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

If nonprofit groups could form networks with one another, it would be an innovative way to help sustain organizations. The only problem is that it may be too ideal to be practical for smaller agencies constricted by budget and immediate demand. What is clear is that changes will have to happen if organizations are going to survive the turbulent economy and expanding demand for services.

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