Collaborations: The Missing Party

October 05, 2017

Periodically, we’ll be featuring a thought piece from one of our amazing CNE board members. We hope you’ll enjoy this chance to get to know them better and hear a bit of their story. This piece was written by Dan Layman, CNE Board Member and President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge.

As the CEO of a community foundation, I often encourage nonprofit organizations to work together to affect greater change. I also follow the growing body of research* devoted to nonprofit collaborations and how many of the largest private foundations across the country have been focusing their support in favor of such collaborations.

Within this resides a lesson that the nonprofit community should consider. Take a step back and ask yourselves, “Who is absent from the table?” The answer is, more often than not, the very donors whose support may be critical to the success of your collaborative efforts.

Consider the shifts taking place in personal philanthropy. The days of contributors who respond faithfully every year to our appeal mailings are steadily dwindling. Research about the tendencies of Gen-X and younger donors has supported the premise that giving without significant, hands-on engagement feels to them like a hollow investment with little assurance of impact.

Inviting your donors to be active collaborators* in strategic discussions about your organization’s future may, for many, represent a huge leap beyond simply sharing your strategic plans. However, the rewards may prove to be worthy of the effort. When we welcome our donors to contribute to this discussion, we engage them not only how but, more importantly, when they are most likely to be forming their longer-term philanthropic commitments.

Although the authority for certain decisions must continue to rest with those who are also accountable for outcomes, the manner in which we engage our donors in the strategic discussions that lead to those decisions will make all the difference. This requires our organizations to be mature in governance and management, and well-prepared for meaningful collaboration.

CNE’s CoLab offers a wide range of programming to help individuals and organizations create social change through collaboration.

Dan Layman
CNE Board Member

*To access CNE’s Resource Database, you will need to log in to your CNE member account. Remember that membership is organizational, so your board, staff, and volunteers all use the same username and password to log in. And, of course, we’re always on-hand to provide support along the way.