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Stronger together

The power of connection and community partnership in relation to non-profits

Collaboration between agencies and non-profit organizations needs to be encouraged.

It is a fact that most people that dedicate their lives to helping others, do it because it is their passion to improve the small corner of the world they live in. Most, if not all, saw a need in their community- and decided to act and do the best they could to solve that need, sometimes spending every waking hour working and trying to do as much as they can with the few resources they have.

The problem is, even the most well intentioned person or entity can't do it all. The resources are not unlimited, as much as we would like them to be. There's so much one agency, one non-profit, one person can do. And that's why working together is so important. If we all work together, and communicate with each other, we can maximize those finite resources. If we all add our little grain of sand, we can build a mountain.

By working together, we can avoid duplicating services- and we can delegate to others the tasks that we can't do, while concentrating on the things we can. As a group, we can do what is called community resource mapping, where we all identify what resources we have, and then decide where to allocate them, finding the best people to do the jobs that are needed, and allowing everyone to bring the best of themselves to the table.

It's very tempting, when working in organizations like ours, to become insular and territorial about one's resources, as they are usually very limited. But doing so only harms the people we're trying to help. By connecting with others that are trying to do the same work, and pooling resources, we can help more. By identifying our strengths and weaknesses, we can determine what we can all do and delegate tasks, becoming more effective in the process.

We need to cultivate the partnerships and the relationships we have with each other, and see others as allies- not competitors. In the end, we all want the same thing- to help those that needs us most, and improve their quality of life. And the more we collaborate with each other, the more we can achieve that.

Identifying new resources in the community and ensuring access to them, as a group, is a lot easier.

When people decide to be in this line of work, they usually have a passion for it- but very little idea of where to start, or how difficult it will be to convince other people, other institutions, that the work they're dreaming of doing is worth investing in. Some people start with a very idealistic notion of what work like this would be, with no concrete plan of how to achieve those ideals.

Then reality hits. We realize that the work we want to do requires something else, something we might not have: money and in some cases, lots of volunteers. And the ones that have the money, are not out on the street passing it out. Qualified, committed volunteers are hard to acquire. There's grants and resources, but if we don't know they exist- we can't access those resources. If people don't know we exist, and what we do- they won't offer to volunteer either. This is the stage where people get burned out and discouraged.

Working as a group, and having the resources in the community identified, helps everyone. Small non-profits can rely on bigger ones for help and advice. New people can learn the ropes from people that have been in this field for years. After all, these are businesses- they need a plan, just like any other business. By concentrating on what we do best, and letting others do what they do best, and referring the clients we can't help to them, we allow for a better use of the resources we do have. By helping each other, we all grow, and the community benefits greatly from that growth.

We can avoid one common problem- duplication of services.

By communicating, and working as a group, we can also avoid a very common problem- duplicating services. Let's say that there's three non-profits in a given community, and they all offer the same services. By getting together and deciding what services they'd do best, they can focus their attention and resources in them, while allowing the others to do the same. As a group, they can make a bigger impact in their community. By collaborating, instead of seeing each other as competition, they can serve more people.

Letting go of the feeling that we are supposed to do it all is hard for people sometimes. But we have to remember why we do this, and how it's not about us. As much as we'd like, we can't be good at everything. Some people are better at doing certain things, and others are better at doing other things. By being humble and identifying those things, and being able to relinquish that control over everything, we can focus on the things that we do best, and hone those skills that we were gifted with. If we become better, the community as a whole becomes better.

The support and collaboration between us, maximize resources and make us more effective at helping others achieve the quality of life they deserve and need.

When we support and collaborate with each other, we can provide information and services we offer to other agencies, and they in turn can pass it on to the low income families and individuals they work with, and vice versa. By working together, and putting aside our differences, these families and individuals get better quality of service from all of us.

This working in tandem, instead of competing with each other, has better outcomes in the long run. As we start to identify as a group the resources available, we might come across new or additional resources that might help others and that they would have never learned about on their own.

These partnerships could help to assist in creating and building better networks to support a more comprehensive community system for serving low income people. When we work together, we build capacity and ensure that the work can continue, even with limited resources. And that benefits the whole community- not only us.

Let's work together, for together we are stronger.


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