[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]
Given the astronomical proliferation of values-driven organizations in the last few decades, many of our readers are wondering: “How come you all don’t just combine forces?”
No one—investors, customers, clients, etc.—likes to see duplication of effort among barely distinguishable parties. It certainly makes marketing and branding a tougher job as well!
But we are so passionate and concerned about our own sub-issues, services, and products that we can neglect the potential allies out there. In fact, instead of finding ways to cooperate, we often adopt a competitive attitude.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am the first to agree that healthy competition keeps organizations on their toes. What I bemoan is the frequent tendency to allow narrow organizational interests (such as maintaining the status quo or protecting fragile egos) to take precedence over larger community interests.
Look for the opportunities
Whenever you find a strong connection between your organization and another, in terms of work and target audience, you will also find a stellar opportunity to benefit mutually. By working together, you:
- Build on each other’s strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses
- Avoid duplicating services by coordinating and streamlining your work
- Learn from each other’s experiences
- Begin to see relationships among the issues and approaches that you focus on
- Share information and resources instead of having to seek them out individually
- Begin to reap the benefits of economy of scale
Tell your readers about it
All of these benefits of collaboration should feature prominently in your written pieces.
If you can show that you are not only aware of your potential collaborators, but also working with them—to make an even bigger difference than you could make alone—you will be ahead of the game. Your readers will respond.
Emphasizing how you work collaboratively shows your readers that you are strategically maximizing your precious resources. It also demonstrates that your organization is “in the know” about your field as a whole. Seize every opportunity to showcase that cooperative work!
After all, successful businesses have long known that strategic partnerships are the way to go. An example from the conventional business world is the growing number of marketing partnerships of airline frequent flyer programs. These partnerships mean that customers can earn miles or get discounts with a host of credit cards, hotels, car rental companies, restaurants, and even retail stores. In turn, the businesses involved reap the benefits of expanding their market share.
One effective appeal letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists began by posing a question on the minds of many of their readers: “There are too many environmental groups. Why don’t you folks work together?”
The letter then went on to show how collaboration is a “guiding principle” for this organization of scientists and citizens:
“We share our findings with other environmental groups, decision makers in government, and local citizens’ groups to achieve our common goal: a cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world….You probably know many of the organizations we collaborate with—the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund. There are scores of others, and UCS stands ready to work with them—combining our expertise and political muscle with the millions of concerned citizens who are collectively our members….
By joining the Union of Concerned Scientists, and connecting with our online Action Network, you won’t just be giving your moral and financial support to UCS’s efforts. You’ll be strengthening the entire Environmental Movement.”
Finding a way to connect to another organization just to be able to say you are “collaborating” will not work. It will fool no one. Be strategic about your choice of partners, and work in a genuine way that benefits all parties involved—especially your clients. If you focus on everyone’s strengths in a way that truly improves each organization’s work, your effort will succeed. If not, go back to the drawing board.