Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

‘Collaboration’ Is Not a Four-Letter Word

March 1, 2013 1:54 am 2 comments

Nefesh B'Nefesh aliyah flight. Nefesh B'Nefesh is one of the largest Israeli nonprofits. Photo: Nefesh B'Nefesh.

I was recently privy to a conversation between nonprofit executives. The two work for a small organization with big ideas that struggles to sustain its outstanding programming for an often neglected segment of the population.

While discussing their newest and most underfunded program, the name of a much larger organization with a similar mission was raised.  Immediately following the mention of this “competitor’s” name, they paused and began shaking their heads in unison.  The more senior of the two then launched into what felt like a scripted mantra:

“They get all of the donations from abroad, funding that could otherwise come to us.  Not to mention that they’re so well known here in Israel.  We have the same mission and similar programming but we just can’t compete with a nonprofit that size.”

I was stunned and saddened.  Though I often hear nonprofits complain about their inability to “compete” and grumble about the success of other organizations, I am always dismayed by the expression of these sentiments.  This mindset causes nonprofits to lose focus, miss out on opportunities, and feeds a “competition narrative” that prevents organizations from learning from each other.

I believe it all stems from misconceptions nonprofit professionals propagate about the funding process.  The prevailing perspective is that all nonprofit organization are competing for the “same dollars” and must edge each other out in order to grab a slice of the “limited pie.”  There is also a compulsive need to hoard donor information and successful campaigning and programmatic strategies for fear of them being “stolen.”

This pervasive attitude is a death knell to a great number of small nonprofits throughout Israel and the greater Jewish World and poses a serious threat to the health and longevity of the entire third sector.

In order to turn things around, nonprofits must realize that two heads may, in fact, be better than one.  Namely, they must begin collaborating, a concept that is very foreign to Israel’s nonprofit sphere.  When nonprofit organizations with similar missions and programs set their politics and egos aside and join forces for the greater good, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

In addition to there being strength in numbers, by working together – for specific projects or across the board – they can make up for each other’s weaknesses, by “shifting the weight” to the organization that is stronger in certain areas. And new pairs of eyes will open new worlds of possibilities for creative problem solving.

Just imagine how it would all play out if instead of competing for funding, similar organizations would pool their resources to maximize efficiency and increase output.  The result would be the best possible programs and initiatives, fulfilled and happy employees and volunteers, and donors who are thrilled with the effective use of resources.

Yes, there would be hiccups and challenges along the way, but that’s par for the course with any great endeavor.  As long as all those involved are committed to true teamwork and focus is maintained, there is no real downside.

There must, of course, be an understanding from the very beginning regarding who will take the lead, how the expenses will be divided, and how success will be measured.  It’s daunting for sure, but it’s entirely doable.

So, why don’t more Israeli nonprofit organizations collaborate?

While there are various explanations – ranging from “my baby” syndrome to copious amounts of red tape to incompatibility of nonprofit work cultures – the most prevalent reason is fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, and even fear of success (specifically the precedents that would be set by successful collaboration).

And so those of us who can see the impending collapse of so many worthy nonprofits must do something about it.  In order to continue their selfless, life-altering work on behalf of others, Israeli nonprofits need our guidance and support to make that leap and face the unknown.

We must encourage a culture of camaraderie – rather than competition – within the third sector.

We must applaud Israeli nonprofits for their strengths and help them figure out the best possible solutions to address their weaknesses.

And we must make sure that they are fully aware of the tools and opportunities available to them and empower them to move their own organizations and the entire third sector forward.

After all, it is not only for their own good, but for ours as well.

Shoshanna Jaskoll is the co-producer of AMUTA21C (www.amuta21c.com), an annual summit focused on bringing together Israel’s non-profit and business professionals in an effort to create connections, showcase opportunities, and raise operational standards across the third sector.

2 Comments

  • One can clearly see this phenomenon with Zionist Organization of America (“ZOA”) and Mort Klein. Times have changed but these two haven’t. Insurrection is afoot and ZOA has now lost its non-profit tax deductible status. Klein is ill and appears to believe that the only reason ZOA now exists is to pay his one million dollar annual salary, which represents more than ore than 70% of currently raised funds. Time for more than collaboration in this instance, has finally arrived.

  • There is one additional reason large nonprofits (especially the global ones) do not collaborate – ego. They believe, and act, as though no-one has anything better to bring to the table than they can do themselves. Until these organizations take themselves off their self-inflated pedestals, collaboration – at least with this group – is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →