Anyone who grew up a nerd, like me, loves superheroes and their stories.
Batman, Superman, The Avengers, The Justice League, and the rest all appeal to our dreams and make us want to be better versions of ourselves. These are heroes we all look up to.
Though these superheroes may be works of fiction, their real-world analogs are all around us. For instance, some of these heroes come in the form of nonprofits that fight for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the sick. But what happens when your nonprofit doesn’t have the reach or the money needed to accomplish all of your goals and defeat your own “supervillain” (like poverty, sickness, or injustice)?
One powerful way to solve this problem is to collaborate with other like-minded nonprofits and reach your goals together. It’s exactly what Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman do to defeat Doomsday in the new movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
But how do you ensure a collaboration that benefits both parties?
This Batman v Superman guide to nonprofit collaboration will walk you through the whole process! (By the way, there will be spoilers)
What do you have to gain from nonprofit collaboration?
In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we witness the birth of the Justice League as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman team up to fight their newly created enemy, Doomsday, made by Lex Luthor from the body of General Zod.
Yes, I know, a lot of geek material, but if you watch the previous Superman movie, Man of Steel it will all make sense. The important thing is that the heroes eventually team up and bring their own unique powers and abilities to the table.
Before you move ahead with a partnership between your nonprofit and another, make sure to carefully weigh the benefits and costs.
Some benefits may include:
- Cutting costs: Campaigns and charity events can be costly endeavors and collaborating with other nonprofits can help you mitigate those costs by sharing them.
- New Ideas: If you understand the importance of fresh thinking, then collaboration can open the doors to a treasure trove of new input.
- Bigger presence: The voice of your nonprofit can’t always reach as many people as you want to, but by collaborating with other like-minded organizations, your voice grows along with their reach.
What do you stand to lose by collaboration?
Newton’s third law dictates that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. While Newton was specifically referring to physics, his law holds true in many other aspects of the world, including collaborating with other parties. Before Batman and Superman are brought together to fight a common enemy, their battle is with each other because of their ideological and personal differences.
Batman sees Superman as a destructive force capable of wiping out the entire human race, based on the damage to Gotham caused by Superman’s battle with General Zod in Man of Steel, which was witnessed in-person by Bruce Wayne.
Superman sees Batman as a menace to civil liberties and a symbol for everything that’s wrong with vigilante crime fighting, including the unwarranted use of deadly force and inhumane practices like branding criminals.
Their conflict is a destructive one that allows psychopath Lex Luthor to use their rivalry to his benefit. It is only by finding their causes are aligned and that their preconceived notions were incorrect that the heroes can unite.
But what if they had not done so?
What are some of the things you stand to lose by collaborating with another nonprofit?
- Less Independence: By sharing the costs and efforts with another nonprofit, you will obviously have to make room for outside input and decision-makers. Collaboration includes compromise.
- Messaging will have to synchronize: Collaborating with another nonprofit also means that what one organization does reflects upon the other. More care must be taken to respect each other’s messages.
- Chance of conflict: Not everyone will get along 100% of the time and although two like-minded organizations may have the same endgame in mind, the methods for reaching that goal may lead to conflict. Collaboration means accepting that risk and learning to work through those conflicts.
Understanding whether these drawbacks are outweighed by the benefits will help you determine if this collaboration is worth the trouble of making a reality.
Determine each organization’s strengths and weaknesses
It is obvious that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are not equal in skills and powers.
Superman has the powers of supersonic flight, superhuman strength, heat vision, and incredible hearing.
Batman has no real superhuman abilities, however he is very strong for a human, has a keen intellect (which is also why he is also known as a detective), has immense wealth to purchase and develop experimental gadgets and weaponry, and he has his trusty friend and butler, Alfred, to rely on.
Wonder Woman is an immortal Amazonian princess with immense strength and speed, and who also wields a Greek sword from ancient Macedonia, along with her virtually indestructible Macedonian shield and powerful Amazonian bracelets.
In their battle with Doomsday, each hero combines their individual talents to ultimately defeat the monster. While Wonder Woman dukes it out with Doomsday, Superman manages to kill him using a Kryptonian spear forged by Batman, who initially created it to kill Superman. In this fight, each of their special abilities are used to overcome an enemy that would have easily defeated them separately.
When collaborating with other nonprofits, you should also inventory each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, it could be that your organization is better at mobilizing volunteers to achieve physical goals, such as recruiting new members or donors, while your potential collaborator is great at creating engaging, educational content regarding your issue and distributing it to followers. Given something like that, it’s obvious they should do the marketing for the event, while you manage the on-the-ground volunteers to run it.
When collaborating, you should consider sharing:
- Membership databases
- Social media campaigns
- Email campaigns
- Volunteer lists
- Marketing techniques
- Even software suggestions and technical improvements
By collaborating you can provide the manpower necessary to reach a goal, while your collaborator provides the materials, the information, and the personality needed to sway over new members or potential donors.
Decide whether your collaboration ought to be temporary or permanent
Although Superman dies while defeating Doomsday, it is obviously hinted at the end of the movie that he will return. He has to return; the Justice League has only just begun. While at Superman’s funeral, Batman and Wonder Woman discuss finding and uniting other superpowered beings on the planet (The Flash, Aquaman, etc.) to defend humanity. They clearly intend to stick together for the long term.
After the initial goals of your nonprofit collaboration are realized, you and your partners must decide whether continuing this relationship is beneficial or not. Factors you should consider include:
- Net gains (or losses) in members, donations, or volunteers
- How well teams from both nonprofits worked together
- How smoothly collaborated events were conducted
- Whether knowledge was gained by both parties
Perhaps your nonprofit will move on to other areas which have very little to do with your collaborator and therefore going your separate ways is best for now. However if there are other unrealized goals that you feel will be better accomplished together, then building on the foundation of this relationship is for the best.
This even begs the question if it is beneficial to remain as separate nonprofits or to merge together to further amplify and realize the benefits of collaboration, including sharing costs, knowledge, infrastructure, and leadership. But this may be an idea for another article; in the meantime, here is a guide you can refer to if it interests you.
Has your nonprofit ever done a formal collaboration with another organization? What worked or what didn’t work? Let us know in the comments below!
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