I am a really good connector. Connecting is like my crack cocaine. I see the extraordinary potential of putting the right people together. I want to see it happening on a much larger scale, beyond what I, as one person, am able to do. A few years ago, I had an idea. And now I am ready to plant my flag in the sand to make it happen.
Imagine a space that serves as the central connecting spot for social good in Chicago. The purpose of this space would be to bring together nonprofit organizations that are working on the same issues and help them join efforts. I see three major components to what this space could provide.
1. Community Meeting and Programming Space
If we want nonprofit organizations to work together, we need to have affordable (or free) spaces in which they can meet. They need to learn about each other and will hopefully want to provide exciting community events that they create together. We would have facilitators to help develop these relationships because getting organizations to understand, let alone embrace, the concept of collaboration, when they want to protect their turf, is no easy task. Years ago, at a volunteer recruitment event, I met people from two west side nonprofits. One provided literacy and tutoring for children and one ran a summer baseball league for children the same age. They didn’t know about each other but they should have. There are unlimited possibilities for those two organizations to work together to inspire baseball players to do better in school. This scenario repeats itself over and over again in Chicago. By introducing organizations to each other and bringing them together on a regular basis, we can begin to form these partnerships that will lead to exciting collaborations.
2. Group Purchasing
Nonprofits use office supplies like paper and ink jet cartridges. They hire professionals like web developers and lawyers. But they are not coordinating these efforts with other organizations to save money. There is power in group purchasing. The vast majority of nonprofit organizations are struggling financially. By bringing organizations together for purchasing, there will be significant financial savings. Additionally, by having a preferred vendor list, we will save time for nonprofits who need to hire professionals or companies for services because they won’t need to spend time finding these vendors. Eventually, this could also lead to discounts for membership in professional organizations or for participation at conferences.
Nonprofit professionals need to wear many hats. And there is no one reliable and affordable place to receive additional training. Whether it is how to best utilize social media, learn about the best technology tools for content relationship management (crm) or how to find corporate sponsors, we need more opportunities for our nonprofit professionals to continue to improve their skills. This site could be a provider of those great learning opportunities.
So now, my calls to action for those who want to help:
1. I need to find a partner-someone who has business skills who can be the anchor.
They don’t need to provide financial backing, but they do need to be able to create strategy, to break large tasks into small digestible pieces, and to know a thing or two about running a business. If you know anyone who might be a good fit to work with me on this in Chicago, send them my way.
2. I am going to set up a weekly meeting for anyone in the nonprofit world who wants to come together to talk.
We may not have a physical site, but we can begin to talk and to meet and to get to know each other. We will be meeting initially at ING Direct Cafe starting Thursday, March 29th from at least 10:00 am until 12:00 noon every week. (Probably most of the day.) Join me there. And tell other people too. I will be available to chat about anything you are interested in and over time, I will arrange to have some interesting people with different areas of expertise join us.
If you like this idea of a nonprofit connecting space, please share it with others you know. If you want to help me build it, please join in! And if you have any input or feedback, please share that as well. Let’s meet in the comments for more conversation. I am eager to hear what you have to say.