"Know Thyself" Before Collaborating

image of Plato

What if Plato were alive today? Imagine him, instead of writing dialogues, as a prolific blogger and thought leader in the nonprofit sector. I visualize him extolling nonprofits for their collaborative efforts to strengthen communities and also encouraging them to “Know Thyself” before attempting to partner.

Through his writings, Plato implored the people of Delphi to “Know Thyself.” Like Plato, Andrew Wolk, Founder/CEO of Root Cause does the same in his post, The Key to Successful Partnerships: Double Check Your Own High Performance:

“Before you can develop shared goals with others—you’ve got to look in the mirror. You’ve got to understand your own organization, your own capacity, and your own impact.”

This interview with researchers from Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership affirms Plato’s “Know Thyself” mantra in  How and Why Do Nonprofits Work Together. They emphasize the importance of nonprofits having a clear purpose for collaborating:

“Be clear on the 'why.' Working with other nonprofits is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Understand your organization's fundamental reasons for working with others. Clarity of focus is key.”

They also share the three common reasons why nonprofits choose to partner: organizational efficiency, organizational effectiveness, and broader social and systems change. But knowing your organization is not enough. In addition, they explore various ways nonprofits work together so you’ll better understand your collaborative options.

For real-world examples of nonprofit partnerships, explore the 650+ case studies at Collaboration Hub, which also has reports, articles, podcasts and videos.

When you are ready to approach prospective partners, Jean Butzen offers tips on starting the conversation in How to Start Talking About Nonprofit Mergers. Although she talks about mergers, her tips are relevant to starting any conversation about partnering.

Once your partnerships are established, like Plato, you have to become masterful in your communication of what your organization is doing. If Plato were here today, he would constantly communicate and target his messages to the appropriate audience. Thousands if not millions of people would follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other popular social media sites.

Although having high volumes of followers and retweets are important, they may not translate to more dollars for your organization. In order to communicate your partnerships to the right audience and funders effectively, you need to know your collaboration well. Luz Rodriguez and Katie Casey expound on the importance of communicating partnerships to bolster funding in How to Communicate Your Collaborations.

These posts will help you form or enhance mutually beneficial partnerships to increase your community impact.



Image of Asia Hadley

ASIA HADLEY is Virtual Services Assistant at Foundation Center. Previously she worked as Training Coordinator at the Center's Atlanta office, served as vice-president of the Atlanta Nonprofit Professionals, and volunteered as a grant funding peer reviewer for the Commission for Service and Volunteering.