Guest Blog by Lacey Kempinski, fundraising specialist, awesome collaborator and owner of Balanced Good
Collaboration has long been a “trendy” word and discussion point in the non-profit sector. Donors encouraging non-profits to work together, to create harmony, to streamline resources, all in hopes of better meeting community and global needs.
Now, in the presence in a global health pandemic, streamlining and sharing resources could be the secret to helping non-profits navigate this challenging time, where increased funds and continued donor communications are critical.
Personally, I see the benefit of collaboration, but I’ve also seen the struggle non-profits navigate to build a successful collaborative relationship with other organizations. In theory collaboration seems great, but what about if we put this theory in to practice?
I don’t run a non-profit, but I do own Balanced Good, which is a fundraising consultancy aimed at supporting small to mid-sized charities within my local community.
As I’m relatively new to entrepreneurship I’ve tackled many challenges and stumbling blocks. One of my major concerns when I entered solo entrepreneurship was that lack of team comradery while working. I was concerned about challenges I might face in terms of accessing mentoring and learning from individuals I no longer shared a work environment with.
That’s when collaboration presented itself. Not only is collaboration amongst consultants and fundraising professionals beneficial for our personal and professional growth and development, but I’ve learned it truly is about putting the clients’ needs first and making sure they have access to a variety of expertise to help them obtain the best fundraising results possible.
When one of my clients discussed their goal and hopes for establishing a strong corporate strategy, I knew just who to turn to, Heather Nelson at BridgeRaise.
In collaborating with Heather, we worked to help educate and provide direction to the client to ensure they were moving on the best path forward. During this process, I took away some important learnings on collaboration, which could be easily applied to our sector, especially during a time where innovation and new pathways forward are key:
1. Collaboration Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
In today’s fast-paced world, non-profits tend to move a little slower, but if we can learn anything from the COVID pandemic, it is that we have been able to pivot quickly.
We can change directions when we are forced to, so why not look at how we can change direction and form partnerships proactively?
An example of this is seeing how the Federal Government, Canadian Community Foundations, and the United Way came together relatively quickly to create a plan to better support the non-profit sector during the pandemic.
In collaborating with Heather, transparency and communication were key factors in making the partnership move quickly and easily to meet client deliverables. When you are focused on a common goal and how to achieve it, many roadblocks can be removed to make things easier.
2. An Abundance Mindset Has Real Benefits
What if charities and non-profits stopped thinking in terms of competition and lack of resources, and started looking at how we can better serve our donors?
So often, I hear from Board Members and Executive Directors that their donors are fatigued. Donors have been asked too often from all the charities needing support. That the needs of our sector seem endless.
The result of collaboration could mean more meaningful partnerships between causes donors love and the charities that support these causes.
Collaboration could lead to more meaningful and impactful gifts that are able to help non-profit clients through a spectrum of services.
Collaboration could tackle the many nuanced layers of more systemic and large-scale problems.
I saw the abundance mindset working in action and see it often in the world of fundraising consultants. Most consultants want to ensure our client receives the most benefit possible in working with us, so why not provide access to more expertise when required?
Partnering with another consultant to move a project forward has a cyclical process that will likely result in additional partnerships, and work, down the road. It really is a win-win.
3. Collaboration Can Fill a Mentorship Gap
For me personally, being able to collaborate and reach out to leaders in our sector has made me realize that my journey into solo entrepreneurship has endless opportunities for mentorship, growth, and learning.
This same idea can be applied when small to mid-sized shops come together to collaborate.
In a sector where smaller shops may only have access to one fundraising professional, or the Executive Director is managing fundraising off the corner of their desk, the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded organizations is a real chance to learn and take-a-way these learnings to improve systems in your organization.
Looking at your “competitors” as partners could lead to stronger donor relationships, improvements in programming and staffing models, or simply building a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship to share ideas and best practices.
Am I an expert in collaboration? Absolutely not. Am I an expert in how COVID is changing the shape of our sector? Again, no.
But I do think we can use this opportunity and learning experience, seeing how quickly charitable organizations were able to successfully pivot, and apply this to collaboration within our sector moving forward.
Lacey Kempinski, CFRE, is a Fundraising Specialist and Owner of Balanced Good. After more than a decade of working in traditional fundraising shops and building a career in major gifts, she decided to take a leap and open her own consulting firm.
Now she is focused on helping small and mid-sized charities build their fundraising capacity and engaging in discussions about authenticity, family life, and how to blend this with a career in the social sector.
Lacey is the current Co-Chair, Membership for AFP Golden Horseshoe. She is also a Mom of two young boys, Dog-Mom to a rowdy rescue, wife, and loves a good book.
You can reach her on twitter @LaceyKempinski or on LinkedIn.