Let's Move from Sector Divisions to Sector Collaborations
Last week I was interviewed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how non-profits and Generation Y can do well in a weak economy. After the interview I realized that while non-profits will certainly reach out to each other, too often we view the private sector and public sector as so far apart that we speak as though they are at war–fighting not only for employees but also for audiences and publicity.
Both sectors fulfill needs and serve a purpose. They are both equally diverse and this division makes it difficult for each sector to harness and share what makes them unique. Thus we must be aware that most businesses are not Lehman Brothers or Bank of America and most non-profits are not ACORN or Harvard. Most nonprofits and businesses are small and local resulting in a greater connection to the communities they serve and a greater need for cross-sector partnerships.
So let’s be collaborators and consultants to each other instead of competitors.
- Help nonprofits develop independent sources of revenue.
- Partner on a project for the community that you both may serve–like a school and a bank offering financial literacy and homeowner workshops.
- Give employees incentives to donate money and time–like matching donations or days off for community service.
- Encourage businesses to be transparent about their prices and products.
- Create neighborhood guides for new businesses highlighting needs and areas for collaboration.
- Invite business owners to community meetings and ensure that they feel like shareholders.
- Stay abreast of political changes and how they affect giving.
- Make collaborating part of your overall development strategy.
In the context of a weakening economy, more than money is at stake. Trust seems to evaporate as promises are broken and money is lost. When we collaborate and consult we act as stakeholders in each other’s operations and keep each other in check.