Nonprofits discuss cooperation at meeting

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With competition fierce over available funds and an increased need for service providers to network, United Way Director Corrie Scott thought it was time for those in the nonprofit sector to get together for the purpose of working together.

It seemed many agreed. More than 40 representatives from youth service groups, health care providers, adult service organizations and other nonprofits gathered Monday to form collaborative teams.

"I thought this would be important, because funding is becoming a huge issue for all of our agencies," Scott said. "Hopefully, we'll learn some collaboration skills, and this will reinforce how important it is to collaborate."

Collaboration begins with comm-unication, consideration and cooperation, said Ridgeview Ele-m-entary School Principal Ju--lie Baker, who opened the meet-ing.

"It's a waste of time, energy and expertise when groups work apart," she said.

"I firmly believe that having a collective effort rather than an individual effort is essential to our continued growth and improvement."

The meeting was facilitated by Jeff Pryor of the Anschutz Family Foundation.

Small breakout sessions indicated that people attended for the opportunity to network with other agencies, build relationships and set common goals.

But barriers exist.

Those attending said competition for resources, competition for money and a lack of trust stand in the way of a collaborative effort.

Overcoming those barriers, Pryor said, requires an ability to disagree when needed and to build trust by avoiding "parking lot talk," the negativity that happens after a meeting when people criticize other participants or ideas.

Finding ways to get past the barriers opens limitless doors.

"The sharing of talents and the combining of expertise pro-motes community success," Ba--ker said.

She challenged audience mem-bers to "forgive the past and build on the future."

Pryor was a bit more forceful. He said collaborative efforts need positive people willing to invest themselves in the project.

"If you do not have money on the race, you don't care," he said. "If you don't volunteer in your community, you don't care about your community. Non-profits are essential. Without nonprofits, you don't have a community."

Some groups have agreed to meet again to discuss ways they can work cooperatively.

Adult service organizations will meet Friday. Youth service organizations haven't set a date, but they agreed that they needed to iron out their needs and service overlap issues.

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