Can We Do More?

by Dañia Heffington

Have you ever stopped to think about all the good work that is being done in our city?  Over the course of the last week, I have had the privilege of sitting in on some amazing conversations and have been reminded that this is a city full of people wanting to make a long term positive impact on the human condition in our region.   There are amazing organizations working to avert homelessness, help people get a good education, get access to basics like food or wipe out sex trafficking.  The list goes on.

But can we do more?

According to a study published by GreenLights for Nonprofit Success, “Does Central Texas Have Too Many Nonprofits?”, there are 5,660 nonprofits in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (this is the 5 county area in and around Austin). This is equivalent to 3.1 nonprofits per 1,000 residents.

That’s a lot of nonprofits.  All of them raising funds, all of them wanting volunteers, a lot of them working to meet the same need or address the same issue.

This begs the question, as Greenlights so eloquently puts it: “How can we encourage organizations to collaborate more, whether through shared services or formal mergers, in order to enhance impact and long-term sustainability?”

And there’s the rub.  To work together – to truly collaborate – takes a lot more effort and energy than to go do it on your own.  Collaboration requires people and organizations being more interested in the objective of meeting the need or addressing the issue than they are in self-preservation.  Collaboration requires people willing to engage in difficult and direct conversations – listening to and asking hard questions of each other in an effort to find the common ground they can stand on.   Collaboration requires time as partners develop relationship and through that establish the trust needed to accomplish things together.

I think we can do more – especially together.   The heart and the desire are there to do great things – that’s evident by the work that is already being done and the number of nonprofits that exist.  Where there is room for improvement in growing the impact of the good that everyone is already doing is through more collaborative work.  Through collaborations we can do more together – making the most of the resources that are available to us – passionate volunteers and workers, funding and best practices, etc. – so that, ultimately our community benefits from a more profound impact over the long run.

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