Nonprofits need to hang out together more often
I was really intrigued by a story in the November 1 edition of the Providence Business News. A local web development business named BatchBlue decided to share its extra office space once a week for free with other small shop folks. The gathering, dubbed BatchHaus, is pretty informal. (It was a delight to spot my neighbor with laptop sitting on a couch in the photo that accompanied the story).
The PBN article quotes the visitors to BatchHaus, many of whom work alone, expressing their appreciation for the opportunity to meet similar techies and make connections. Some of those connections have led to business leads, but overall, the camaraderie helps to create a stronger tech community, which is important to these new entrepreneurs. I was intrigued by the idea.
Then, the very next day, I was at a meeting with colleagues. I reported on the progress of multi-stakeholder learning teams I was using to do the environment scan for a strategic plan for a colleague. (for a future blog).
The colleague I had recruited to facilitate one of the learning teams mentioned that a number of the stakeholders had never visited each others’ facilities, even though they often referred clients to each other. So site visits were put on the agenda.
There are many encouraging reports of the wonderful benefits to co-locating nonprofits. But you don’t have to jump all the way to permanent rental arrangements. Like the BatchHaus folks, hanging out together can be good for your organizational health.
A past employer of mine, Save The Bay, built a fabulous new facility a few years ago right on our urban waterfront, a place that most Rhode Islanders hadn’t visited and thought of as an industrial wasteland. Save The Bay rents their board and conference space to any community nonprofit to use for trainings, retreats and other activities (for a small fee).
The BayCenter is incredibly popular for its amazing view of Narragansett Bay and great training facility. (I was preparing for a training there one winter morning and was rewarded with the acrobatics of a rambunctious harbor seal).
Not only environmental groups use the space. I’ve facilitated or participated in workshops with disability rights activists to the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. All who attend meetings there are amazed that the waterfront could be so gorgeous — a real win for Save The Bay which has not given up on restoring any part of the Bay, even its most impaired urban waterfront.
The buzz is all around about the need for more collaboration and joint ventures in our sector. But most successful collaborations require trust and good faith in addition to mutual benefit. Collaborations don’t jump all the way to trust, they build up to it. What better way to get to know each other than by coming together in unstructured, no pressure places to share ideas, see new things, make connections and maybe get some feedback from a colleague.
It’s time for more organizations to open their doors and treat their colleagues as friends they’d like to know better, rather than competitors. I’m convinced there are great opportunities in the making.
So how about inviting new people to your office to hang out with you for a while.