This region is often complimented on the collaboration that occurs here. Consider projects like Build the Block, Quest Charter School, Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and the just-announced $10 million TIGER II grant for the rehabilitation of the Warehouse District in downtown Peoria. These projects came together with the help of diligent collaboration among legislators from both sides of the aisle, local leaders from various industries and community supporters from all corners of the region.
Collaboration is a key component to the success of The Heartland Partnership and many other businesses throughout the region. We have learned that by working together, we are able to achieve greater things than by going at it alone. Regional manufacturers are “teaming” to be more competitive when it comes to bidding on government and large company contracts. The Economic Development Council for Central Illinois and two of its industry strategy groups (specialized manufacturing and global trade) have found new ways to create and retain jobs as well as find a new customer base to sustain regional businesses. Teaming is a key component to these endeavors. One company alone may not be able to handle an entire project from start to finish, but by teaming with other regional businesses that have different skill sets, the project can be completed in one place, in a timely manner. Nonprofit organizations could gain great value from this model.
There are hundreds of nonprofit organizations in our region. Many of them have similar goals, and even more of them have similar funding sources. Unfortunately, we know all too well that funding is tight right now. Many of the usual donors have cut back on their charitable giving as a result of the recession. It is becoming more and more difficult to land the dollars these organizations need to survive.
It’s vitally important that we encourage nonprofit boards to plan for the next potential economic downturn now. We were able to weather the recent economic storm because we were ready for it. We prepared our businesses and organizations for the downturn. We made sacrifices and cuts where we could in order to stay in operation. Now that the recession is over, we are adapting to the economic climate changes in front of us while continuing to modify our businesses and organizations to remain in business. Our nonprofits must be prepared at all times to ensure they remain viable, sustainable organizations regardless of the dynamic challenges they will inevitably face during business cycles.
Collaboration can help ease the pain that some organizations are dealing with due to changes and funding cuts. If our regional nonprofit organizations start working more closely together, it will enable them to better tackle problems that arise in the future. These organizations have many similarities, and by working together, they will be able to talk with each other about common problems and, in turn, share solutions. One organization may have already gone through a certain situation and can lend insight to another that may be experiencing similar issues.
Typically, I have noticed minimal motivation for nonprofits to do things differently. Many have traditionally done things a certain way and have remained in operation for years under that model, so when change is suggested, they aren’t always open to it. But the recent recession has certainly changed us, and we won’t be going back to the way things were; everyone must make changes in order to survive. Nonprofit organizations must learn to get more efficient, more effective and implement tough management solutions.
There is a great need for services provided by the nonprofit sector in our region and all around the nation right now. We will likely see an increased need continue in the near future. With an increased demand for services and decreased funding opportunities, changes have to be made now, especially if these organizations want to stay afloat…collaboration is the key. iBi