The continuing state of the US economy is doing nonprofits no favors. Many organizations have had to close their doors in the past five years, and those who are still functioning are constantly trying to achieve better results with significantly fewer resources. And yet, there is still a sense of competitiveness in many sectors, or at least, a visible lack of collaborative efforts. Because access to funding has become more limited, organizations feel that they are competing for a share of a finite pie. And yet, when we begin to think about nonprofit interoperability, it starts to become clear that there is much more potential for us to do good together than alone.
Keep reading to find out how focusing on nonprofit interoperability can help your organization achieve greater success through collaborative efforts.
What Does Interoperability Mean for Nonprofits?
The phrase “nonprofit interoperability” is being thrown around a lot, but sometimes the meaning is unclear. The term, “interoperability” specifically relates to Information Technology (IT). It refers to the ability of a technology system to be able to communicate and share data with other systems.
However, implementing interoperable systems can affect much more than just one’s technology infrastructure. Nonprofit interoperability introduces a whole new way to look at one’s services and how those services are offered. With proper management, interoperable systems can lead to a whole host of benefits your organization might not have recognized without first attempting to embrace interoperability.
Benefits of Nonprofit Interoperability
- Integrated Services – As a service provider, you’re probably very busy doing what you do best, i.e. providing services. And yet, in an increasingly integrated world, it is no longer enough to just do your own job. Your clients probably need and are receiving a wide variety of services from many organizations. By thinking not only about how you can do your own job but how you can offer holistic assistance to the people and communities you aim to serve, your nonprofit can become a leader in the kind of solutions that our society so desperately needs. Integrated services are the wave of the future, and nonprofit interoperability in an important step to helping us get there.
- Collaboration – Even if sectors which don’t seem to necessarily need interoperability, such as the rare disease sector, non-profits are finding that collaboration is key. When data storage systems such as case management systems or disease registries can share information between them, organizations can analyze them, discovering new similarities or just avoiding the task of have to collect the same information twice. Particularly in sectors like rare disease, where data is not always easy to come by, these collaborative efforts can make the difference between failure and success.
- Funding – We need to get out of a scarcity mindset, wherein we all think we’re competing against one another for the same slice of the pie. Instead, by pooling resources and thinking in more collaborative ways, we can help funders by enabling their funds to extend farther and do more good. Funders are looking for collaboration because they know their dollars only stretch so far, and they want to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and sharing between stakeholders. Thinking along the lines of nonprofit interoperability can help our organizations achieve the dual purpose of appearing more attractive to funders and doing more good with less.
Alone, we can only achieve so much. And yet, in this age of new and incredibly powerful infrastructure, we have the opportunity to change the whole paradigm under which nonprofits operate and how services are delivered to those in need. By viewing nonprofit interoperability as more than simply technology – as a way of doing more good – we can all stand together… and change the world.
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