In parts I & II of this article, I have listed six different goals that should be set at a community-wide non-profit summit meeting. These goals so far are:
- Make a thorough introduction of each group and person that goes beyond the casual niceties of most meetings.
- Launch a brainstorming session that lists the problems facing your community.
- Actively seek out opportunities for collaborative projects between groups with similar missions.
- Look for ways that the non-profits can combine services in order to save money.
- Thoroughly review and compare all the groups fundraising calendars to eliminate unnecessary conflict and competition.
- Create a unified front of the non-profit community in your area, so the public knows all groups are on the same page.
Now for the conclusion of this list.
7. This leads me to the seventh goal that should come out of this summit. That is, the groups should agree to help support each other in mission-based ways. For instance, if a family is involved with one non-profit, and the director of that non-profit thinks that the family could benefit from the services of another non-profit, he should definitely make a referral to the family. Or more directly, if a client of one group has a question that would best be answered by another non-profit director, the client should be referred there.
If employees at all non-profits were to act like this, there would be a greater sense of cooperation, and people would get the help that they needed but didn’t know how to ask for. If you think that this goal should already be in practice, I agree with you, but sadly, in many cases, non-profits operate almost exclusively in their own little circle and don’t poke their noses out very far or very often.
As I mentioned in goal number six above, your community will eventually pick up on this cooperative spirit and will support your efforts at unification and cooperation. And that, overall, will benefit everyone.
8. The eighth goal I suggest you shoot for at a non-profit summit goes all the way back to the initial introduction I talked about in goal number one. And that is, after all this working together, sharing resources, and demonstrating solidarity, the leaders of the non-profits should use the summit to establish an active and dynamic networking infrastructure.
Whenever one executive director is having a problem of some professional sort, he or she should be able to pick up the phone and get the help that is needed. Ideas for new fundraisers or new projects should be bounced around back and forth like a pinball among the groups in this new “coalition”.
This kind of relationship building is free and easy to build. After all, everyone in this “group” is a non-profit professional. Even if the missions of the various organizations are different, the individual people probably all have a lot in common. And, the more the leaders of these non-profits talk to one another, the more likely they will be to want to work together on collaborative projects or to share cost-saving services.
9. I know I said I’d give you eight different goals you should have at a non-profit summit, but here’s a bonus one. Make sure that you plan to meet again, as a group, soon. Don’t let all the good will and progress you established at the first meeting fade away.
Overtime, directors find new jobs, board members resign, and challenges within the community itself change. If you want to maintain a lasting and unified front of non-profit organizations that are aware of each other, build on each other’s strengths, and work as a cohesive unit within the community, then you will have to work at it continually.
Don’t let the group leave that first meeting at the VFW hall without a commitment to meet again on a certain date in the not too distant future.
Photo by: gsqi