Monday, November 2, 2015

Collaboration through the Years

Judy Alnes, Executive Director at MAP for Nonprofits 
At Annual Forum 2015 we talked Radical Collaboration as a way to launch into a new era philanthropy where donors and nonprofits are working together towards the greater good. MAP for Nonprofits has been helping nonprofit organizations explore and construct alliances and strategic restructuring since 2007 through mergers, joint ventures, program transfers, shared services and acquisitions. So, who better to share their thoughts on collaboration through the years than MAP’s Executive Director Judy Alnes?

We met with to Judy to get a better understanding of MAP's restructuring services, her thoughts on nonprofit collaboration, the nonprofit sector, and her personal dreams for collaboration.

Strategic Alliances aka Nonprofit Match-Makers

In 2007, MAP added merger/redesign consultation to their mix of services as they encountered a peaked interest in organizations exploring mergers, acquisitions, program transfers and more, in an effort to stabilize and survive during tough economic times. In 2009. MAP published MergeMinnesota, providing step-by-step merger guidance to nonprofit organizations. And in 2012, in partnership with Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, they were the first to publish findings on factors that create successful mergers in Success Factors in Nonprofit Mergers. To put it simply, when it comes to nonprofit mergers, MAP knows what they're doing!

According to Judy, since 2007 there's been a definite shift in the way nonprofits approach collaborative opportunities. "Organizations are now focused on trying to find the right partner to advance the work."  It's less about trying to stabilize/survive and more about strategic decisions to further the work. So where does MAP come into play? MAP is there to play nonprofit "match-maker," offering consulting services to help pair organizations with similar goals, hopes and dreams.

Opportunities for Radical Collaboration

"More and more leaders are seeing the value in collaboration," Judy shared when asked how she's seen collaboration change over the years. "But collaboration takes time, energy, trust and common ground, and too often people are looking for speedy results."  She went on to say, "We can't solve problems in a day. Sometimes the tough work takes time."

We couldn't agree more! At Annual Forum 2015, we took a closer look at 'Radical Collaboration' asking, what does real, authentic collaboration look like? How can we partner in new ways to achieve even greater outcomes? And, how does collaboration help build our community as a whole? Annual Forum panelists (pictured below) shared openly about their efforts to achieve authentic and meaningful collaboration, including discussion around both the success and challenges that can accompany a collaborative venture. But, Judy's right, it's not easy. Change is rarely easy, but is necessary in order to make space for new ideas and even greater outcomes.

Annual Forum 2015, Leadership Panel: Radical Collaboration in Action
When asked what she sees as opportunities for collaboration in the future, Judy mentioned organizations with common missions and goals coming together to create meaningful, lasting change. "Too often work is piecemeal-ed and uncoordinated. People/organizations need to become less territorial and less competitive if we are to solve some of the issues that need resolution." Judy went on to say, "Boards play a huge role. Instead of focusing on preserving the organization at all costs, they should instead be focused on advancing the mission and working towards solving the problem." 

What's next for MAP?

Judy and the MAP team is excited to announce their new partnership with BoardSource. Together they'll develop and launch a large-scale campaign focused on creating a sustainable shift in board attitudes and practices that will support nonprofit collaborations and restructuring.  "We aim to inspire boards to think and act differently so that the most meaningful structures for carrying out their missions can be realized."

Before our time with Judy was up, we had to ask, what is one Radical Collaboration you wish you could make happen? Judy's dream for collaboration is to reclaim the night sky from light pollution. "There's a massive universe out there and we're robbing generations of being able to feel connected to something greater than themselves, through night pollution." 

To learn more about MAP check out their website at

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