Ep 33: Successful Nonprofit Collaborations (With Geri Mannion)

nonprofits are messy

During my time at GLAAD, a funder convened a bunch of LGBT movement leaders. The funder wanted each nonprofit to share its 3-year strategic direction with the rest of the group. Many were unwilling to share.

Why? Was it that these leaders were fearful that somebody would “steal” good ideas? That a better funded organization would stomp on their missions? Yes, plus other reasons as well. How disappointing.

Nonprofit collaborations – the good and the bad – was a big topic at a recent conference I keynoted. I ran a breakout session and everyone laughed when the words “collaboration” and “hostility” appeared next to each other.

But I believe it takes a village to run a nonprofit. Today’s guest has spent her career giving away money. As a funder, she knows about the value of teamwork and will tell us a thing or two about the success that comes with nonprofit collaborations – and the potential hazards.

About Geri Mannion

As director of Carnegie Corporation’s U.S. Democracy Program, Geri Mannion brings a wealth of experience about the role of philanthropy in challenging, improving and deepening the civic dialogue. She has directed the division since 1998, after staffing the Corporation’s program of Special Projects for almost ten years.

Active in professional organizations that work to advance and strengthen the philanthropic and nonprofit world, Geri co-chairs the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a national affinity group of funders active in supporting programs that impact immigrants.

In 2009, Geri, together with her colleague Taryn Higashi, received the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking, one of philanthropy’s highest honors, for founding the Four Freedoms Fund, a funder collaborative. In 2010, she was named as one of the nonprofit sector’s top fifty leaders by the Non-Profit Times.

Geri claims never to have had a bad day on the job… I needed to hear about that!

In this episode:

  • What gets in the way of nonprofit collaborations
  • How to figure out where your organization can be complementary with others and how to avoid overlap
  • What happens when the funders themselves collaborate
  • What is at the root of all successful alliances
  • How to build nonprofit collaborations between organizations at the state and national levels
  • How to tap into the huge energy that has come out of the last election cycle – getting people out of the stands and onto the field
  • Why it makes sense to view social media as program work rather than simply as communications or marketing

Episode Links:

Joan Garry
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Joan Garry

Widely known as the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Joan Garry
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  • Doug Kohl

    Shoot, the strategic plans should have been posted on their website anyway! Why so secretive? Maybe the first move should have been to simply sit down and get to know each other, not share their plans. Collaborations move at the speed of trust.

    • Doug. Are you able to take credit for that phrase “collaborations move at the speed of trust?” that is AWESOME!!!!!!!