Teamwork needed

Agencies that address basic human needs should learn to work together.

By Barry Porter

[06.17.04] — When it comes to community preparedness and response to disasters, the American Red Cross recognizes it must forge new alliances and partnerships to meet changing expectations of the American people.

More than 900 Red Cross chapters are being asked to form new community partnerships to deliver more and different services, expand volunteer resources and to leverage funds and funding opportunities.

While the strategic partnerships could significantly shape the delivery of Red Cross services, our guidelines for forming partnerships can be used by a variety of nonprofits to meet other community challenges such as homelessness, domestic violence, youth focused programs and many other local initiatives.

Nonprofits see new organizations, causes and foundations popping up all too frequently, with many delivering programs and services already in place.

Duplication, replication or limitation of the reach of each program can diminish its impact.

Effective partnerships depend on communication, flexibility, community involvement, honesty about challenges, plans to track results, and agreement on how to handle funding and share information.

Any nonprofit created to serve others when partnering with community groups may help to enhance your own organizational capacity and strengthen your own organization and the communities you serve.

Partnerships will also provide opportunities for you to collaborate and share technical expertise and resources.

Bringing various organizations and people together to accomplish a common goal mobilizes community resources.

Engaging in creative solutions and linkages between groups not only enable programs to accomplish their objectives, but also provides people with an opportunity to serve.

The goal of partnerships for the Red Cross is ultimately to better fulfill its mission.

It is also an admission, by Red Cross, that others bring resources, skills and a willingness to help, particularly in times of disaster.

The focus cannot be on who gets the credit and recognition, but must be on meeting community needs.

In light of new disaster threats created by terrorist attacks, and increasing vulnerability of a growing number of people to natural disasters, the Red Cross must begin to expand our services through partnering, an approach that can benefit many agencies that address basic human needs.

Barry Porter is executive director of the Triangle Area Chapter in Raleigh, N.C., of the American Red Cross.

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