Collaboration can be quite a challenge for charities, who often have a wide range of stakeholders and a complex governance structure. As charities come under increasing pressure to be more streamlined, Charity Finance looks at the steps organisations can take to boost internal collaboration. Dr Simon Hayward from Cirrus comments in this article by Rob Preston.

Business management consultants often say that getting staff across an organisation to focus on a singular goal is key to driving collaboration and working most efficiently. You might expect a charity’s cause to work better as a goal than a private company’s focus on profit because it has an added ethical aspect to engage people. However, some charities have struggled with different departments working separately from each other, and have invested resources in recent years to break down these silos.

As website Investopedia puts it: ‘The lack of cross-departmental communication can negatively impact workflow, as information is not passing freely across the organisation. This can result in departments working with inaccurate or out-of-date information.’ According to Simon Hayward, chief executive of business management consultancy Cirrus, charities and businesses are equally susceptible to having interpersonal issues. “They are both made up of people”, he says. Collaboration is regarded by advisers like Hayward as not just a nice idea to encourage people to be more sociable, but as an essential way to improve an organisation’s performance. He says: “Silos are one of the biggest brakes on pace. They slow things down and cause delays on progress. A silo mentality can negatively affect employee morale, especially when employees are aware of an issue and are unable to do anything to change it. This can lead to informational bottlenecks and inefficiency as different departments may be working with different understandings for project completion.”

But why do silos occur? Hayward says: “As human beings we are naturally quite tribal. So if I am part of fundraising, I protect the interests of that tribe.”

Hayward says remote working can “amplify the lack of collaboration” within an organisation because it is more difficult for workers to “pop round” and ask a colleague a face-to-face question. American research firm Gallup estimates that the average worker now telecommutes two days a month, while Forbes magazine says some business leaders predict half their workforce will be remote by 2020.  In this context, collaboration initiatives will become ever more important. With further tightening of charities’ budgets likely in coming years, it may be the charities with the most collaborative teams that gain a crucial advantage.

© Charity Finance 2017

Charity Finance subscribers can view this article in full here.

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