We Must Work Together

12 Oct

I’ve been in Washington DC this week spending time with our government relations team and public policy team. I’ve also been meeting with CEOs and other non-profit leaders– folks who are trying to solve the big questions of hunger like we are at Feed The Children. I’ve had a great series of meetings with leaders such as those from Feeding America, Share Our Strength and Food for the Poor.

Years ago when I made the switch from the corporate to the non-profit world, it was somewhat shocking.

While in corporate America, my counterparts at similar organizations made no qualms about being competitors. Our goals were to do everything in our power to undermine our competition and take their market share. Everyone was out to make a name for themselves, improve their standing in the industry, all while making a dollar.

But when I moved to non-profit life, I soon discovered that very competitive edge was also present there, but no one seemed to talk about it. It was as if non-profit work led business executives to think they had halos over their heads, when they didn’t. Driven by passion and mission, it seemed the industry standard to try to out do your non-profit competitors– even if the larger goal of all of the organizations centered upon helping people. Where was all the warm and fuzzy collaboration I expected?

Where do I stand in all of this?

I make no excuses about the fact that I work extremely hard to take any organization that I lead to its greatest potential. I seek to follow sound business practices at all times, and yes, I’m sure sometimes they may seem aggressive to others. I know sometimes the best decision for an non-profit organization is to push your counterparts to step up their game, just as yours is doing. These are things I can be honest about.

But, it doesn’t mean that partnership can’t be at the foundation of your daily operations. It is what I believe in most for Feed The Children.

I am the first one to cheer on our counterparts.

In the business of ending child hunger– the mission that drives everything we do at FTC– I know this is not a fight we can win alone.

We need to talk to our friends at Feeding America and Share Our Strength to find out what they are doing, share our vision and find ways to work together to feed more kids in the US every day.

We need our friends at organizations like Good360 who can assist us with product donations when a crisis like an EF-5 tornado destroys a community in our own Oklahoma backyard.

We need our friends at other international relief and development organizations like Food for the Poor to share best practices and to encourage us that this big undertaking has a greater reach than just our own wing span.

We need community agencies, faith-based groups and other civic organizations to help us carry out our work every day.

The business of helping people is all about sustainable work– work that changes lives, changes hearts and strengths families. This is why more non-profits must be on the same team.

The acclaimed basketball player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said this about working together: “Five guys on the court working together can achieve more than five talented individuals who come and go as individuals.” And such is also true about non-profit life.

I seek to extend a hand of friendship to other leaders in the great work ahead of us all, who might join me?

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