May 29, 2017
 
Nonprofits Told Success Is Tied to Their Ability to Collaborate

Rick Jakious: Collaboration is the tide that will lift us
October 25, 2012 — While many nonprofits in recent years have been advised to act more like a business, it is their ability to collaborate which distinguishes them from the private sector, a trait that will enable them to thrive in a shifting operating landscape, Massachusetts nonprofit leaders were told today as they met at an annual conference.

“In many ways the sector has made immeasurable gains by adopting many of the best qualities of the private sector, but the nonprofit sector has a unique quality that is better suited for the landscape – its willingness and ability to collaborate,” said Rick Jakious, CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN), the state’s nonprofit trade association, told a crowd of nearly 600 who gathered for MNN’s annual conference in Marlborough.

“Collaboration is the tide that will either lift us all or leave us beached,”he said, adding, “It’s really up to us here to decide, as we go back to our various corners of the Commonwealth to our different organizations, whether we are going to take responsibility for improving and advancing collaboration within the sector.”

Noting that state and local governments, increasingly, depend on nonprofits to provide critical services, Jakious said the sector has not yet “fully harnessed the collective power we possess” and suggested that its current model of policy engagement is hurting the sector.

In particular, he cited the sector’s fragmented nature, where individual nonproftis tend to focus on their particular line items in the state budget, as stymieing its ability to influence the state’s legislative agenda to benefit the sector as a whole.

“We need to come together to develop a long-term legislative agenda that we all can promote, in addition to our individual priorities,” he said.

He also noted that the sector faces an erosion of the public trust, which he characterized as the lifeblood of nonprofits: “We’ve seen that bad news is always sexier than good news, and we need to aggressively seize any opportunity to promote our organizations and the sector as effective, efficient, and essential.”

In a conversation with www.massnonprofit.org, Jakious said the shifting landscape for nonprofit has created “a new normal” in which continued fiscal restraint will be a dominant theme.

“Doing more with less is not a recipe for success,” he said. “It will be more a matter of operating more efficiently in a more focused way.”

Earlier in the day, Ami Dar, founder of Idealist.org, a website that connects job seekers, interns, and volunteers with nonprofits, which attracts 150,000 visitors daily, said a more technically interconnected world doesn’t necessarily mean that people with common interests are as connected as they may want to be.

To spur ideas and connections within nonprofits, he suggested that executive directors can help “by getting out of the way” and let their staffers meet and talk.

MNN bestowed its lifetime achievement award on Maurice Boisvert, who, in 1971, founded Youth Opportunities Upheld, Inc.--known as Y.O.U., Inc.— a Worcester-based multi-service nonprofit agency that provides a wide range of social, psychological, educational, vocational, and other preventive and rehabilitation programs.

Since its founding, when two staffers with a $40,000 operating budget offered one program, Y.O.U., Inc. has grown into an agency with 700 staffers and a budget of $37.5 million that serves 20,000 people annually through more than 30 programs.

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