Investing In The Nonprofit Ecosystem – Forbes

Recently, our organization hosted our annual Founders Day event. What started as a small gathering with a few of our local grantees to honor our benefactor has grown over the years into a full-blown block party where we welcome nonprofits from around the region, provide an update on our work and recognize their tireless dedication to serve the common good.

But as much as the day provides an opportunity to celebrate the work thats been done, it also serves as an important moment for reflection on how we are living up to our mission and where we can continue to grow in our future work and service.

As part of this process, we have a tradition of highlighting a small handful of nonprofits that represent one of the sectors we fund in order to bring attention to best practices and innovative strategies they are employing to support their work. At this years event, we honored a collection of arts and culture groups that have been participating in a two-year training and development program to help build their organizational capacity. In my remarks, I noted that while arts and culture organizations present important works of entertainment, they also serve several other critical roles in the overall health of a community. Arts organizations help educate, preserve history and drive economic growth through performance and exhibitions that attract customers to restaurants, parking garages and hotels.

Similar statements could be made about public and private schools that educate but also create jobs, support scientific research and incubate entrepreneurial ideas, healthcare facilities, scientific laboratories or houses of faith.

Communities flourish with the help of thriving ecosystems of interconnected, supportive organizations, businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. It can be very easy to live in a heads-down world where we focus only on the immediate tasks in front of us to move our own organization forward. However, it is important that we continue to lift our gaze from our own work to see how our efforts intersect with and impact other groups, organizations and businesses in our community.

The more we each invest in the ecosystem of our own communities, the stronger our own organizations can and will be. And there are a few easy steps we can all take today to invest in the ecosystems of our own communities:

Understand your 'impact map.' Whether we work at nonprofits, businesses, in government or for foundations, it can be easy to zero in on the target audiences we seek to serve. But our organizations impact several other secondary and tertiary groups, even if we dont do business directly. Event venues provide opportunities for transportation providers. Community spaces drive a need for food and beverage vendors. Think about what local entities impact your organization and vice versa, and reach out. Start dialogues. See if there are ways you can help each other grow.

Be open to partners of all backgrounds. Ive previously shared the research that shows communities thrive based on the formation of unconventional coalitions partnerships between groups that otherwise would not cross paths. Valuable partnerships may exist with organizations you would not currently consider working alongside for any number of reasons. By opening yourself and your organization to the possibility of collaborating with groups that may not currently feel like natural fits, you have the potential to increase the strength and impact of your organization and the broader community.

Make space for connection. While social media can be a wonderful tool to make contacts, nothing quite replaces sitting down and talking with someone in person. Make time to attend in-person networking events, or host get-togethers of your own. While there may be no formal agenda or tangible outcomes, by meeting face to face with partners in your community, you increase the likelihood of forming impactful relationships that can help lift your organization and community.

By identifying the myriad ways we can connect with and support other organizations, the more we can help build strong, vibrant communities that serve the needs of every individual and family in our region.

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Investing In The Nonprofit Ecosystem - Forbes

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