This December, Trinity New Hope, the affordable housing nonprofit affiliated with my congregation, is participating for the third time in a row in the Home Partnership Foundation’s online fundraiser Avenues for Hope. For small younger nonprofits like ours, this is an amazing fundraiser because the Foundation goes out and gathers all of the matching funds from businesses and then finds fun interactive ways for us to earn those funds–get so many donations by noon the first day, get more donations than last year, get donations from 12 states. There are big prizes for the people who get the most dollars or have the most donations in the state and in each of three regions. Since Trinity New Hope is small and in the region with the most other nonprofits, our board and staff do not even attempt to win those awards.
However, there was one prize that piqued my interest: Nonprofit Collaboration Cheer on/recognize [on social media] fellow participants to broaden campaign visibility.
I love the spirit of this prize because I am competitive and this is a reminder that we all have similar goals and are in this work together. However, this is what I know about nonprofit collaboration: it does not happen during the last two weeks of every December. Instead, as the title of this blog post states, collaboration happens all year long. Nonprofit collaboration is all about relationships with the people who work in those nonprofits, and there is nothing immediate or quick about building authentic trusting relationships that lead to real collaboration.
This is what nonprofit collaboration looks like to me:
Getting up early and driving to Caldwell for the Region 3 Housing Coalition Meeting and listening carefully as people introduce themselves. Friends from Nampa Housing Authority and WICAP ask about my sabbatical and reentry and I learn about what is new in their lives and at their agencies.
Hosting the Healthy Nampa Food Meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church one afternoon, again listening carefully as people introduce themselves. After serving food alongside people via Nampa’s Traveling Table for the past few months, someone representing AARP asks if I can give a quick history of Trinity Community Gardens and I happily oblige. Also, the printing of our simple recipe book has been turned over to another agency so I check, at the end of the meeting, on that project’s status.
Attending the Nampa Chamber of Commerce event every few months so that I do not get siloed in the nonprofit world. A Chamber event for women business leaders a few years ago included a bright and passionate local bank manager (Deb Harris) on its panel. Last winter I invited her to give to Trinity New Hope during Avenues for Hope. That led to a phone call which led to a lunch which led to her sitting on the Trinity New Hope board.
Listening when a friend says, “I want you to meet this guy from a nonprofit that’s dealing with housing in Boise.” I met Bart Cochran for coffee in Boise a few years ago and now we reconnect every six months or so. Shortly after he told me Leap Charities was considering partnering with a church in Boise, I saw the Religion News Service article about churches turning the slogan “Not In My Back Yard” into “Yes in God’s Back Yard.” His staff has now adopted the slogan as their own.
Driving over to St Alphonsus Hospital off Garrity every month to be with the small but faithful group of pastors and chaplains who form the Nampa Ministerial Association. Every month during the school year we gather for lunch and hear from a different nonprofit or government agency working in Nampa. This month I dragged my feet, making a list of other things to do with my time, but when I arrived I was excited to see my friend Mari Ramos, who runs the Community Resource Centers for the Nampa School District, and to finally meet Natalie Sandoval, the new McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Coordinator. They were our monthly presenters.
Attending another nonprofit’s fundraiser. Monday night I headed to Payette Brewing in Boise for their weekly Kegs 4 Kause, featuring CATCH. I planned to do some research and figure out what Trinity New Hope would need to do to be a Kegs 4 Kause recipient. I ended up talking with Executive Director Stephanie Day for a long time, which was pure gift. But other gifts at Payette were meeting the executive director of another nonprofit (Jesse Tree) and the pastor of a Boise church which is, like Trinity Lutheran, committed to helping the marginalized.
Working hard. Collaboration can feel like a slog. Why? Because it means working with people and sometimes people are beautiful and amazing and are able to bring their best selves to the collaboration table. And sometimes people are irritating and are having a bad day and are doing their best to just show up. And sometimes that irritating person is me! But when the hard work of continually showing up pays off, there is simply, in my humble opinion, nothing sweeter.
Saying thank you. At the Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week I took materials on Avenues for Hope and gave them to several people who have donated in the past. But I also made sure, during our networking time, to seek out the elected officials who had Trinity New Hope’s back in early July. I also thanked the employees of the local title company for the donation their business is making to Trinity New Hope this December.
Now, you might be asking if this is what a pastor is supposed to be doing with her time in 2019. Believe me, the question of what exactly I am supposed to do after preparing a sermon, leading worship, and providing pastoral care, is one that keeps me up at night. For now, I simply want to show that nonprofit collaboration is a year-round endeavor. It is one that has amazing payoffs, but it is also takes time and patience. I will never stop being a collaborator because I am forever curious about the community I live in and because I think there is so much more we can accomplish when we collaborate.
Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids would never have happened without networking and then collaboration.
The Traveling Table would never have been started without a foundation of trusting relationships on which collaboration is built.
In Ada County, years of networking followed by relationship building followed by collaboration can be seen first in Our Path Home and then to the recent announcement of the goal to truly end homelessness.