“I Did It My Way” is one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous songs, but it also describes something of the entrepreneurial spirit that motivates many well-meaning initiatives operating in New Zealand.

There are almost 27,500 “registered charities” in New Zealand according to the charities services website. Someone has suggested that there is probably as many additional “unregistered” ones as well.

One thing is for sure – there is a growing need for many to merge, work together, pool resources, amalgamate, and work smarter rather than harder. There are only so many charity dollars out there.

Throughout its 41 years in New Zealand, United Way (UWNZ) has strived to impact communities by sharing knowledge and resources as well as money, while working toward the goal of Advancing the Common Good in New Zealand. The future challenge is to collaborate to achieve even greater lasting social impact.

As I visit various regions in New Zealand I observe much duplication by community organisations in many services they offer. Massive investments of energy and money often competing to remedy the same problems, and too often all scrambling for the same charity dollars as support.

Organisations would do well to think through their reason for existence.

Ask the question “If we closed-down, who would miss us?”

The ‘Feel Good’ or the ‘Fill a Gap’ opportunity, or the generosity factor are no longer enough reason to be involved independently slogging it out in the charity sector.

Harry S. Truman said “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit”.

What if we all worked to together in collaboration to achieve collective impact – lasting impact, by sharing resources, pooling experience, maximising efficiency?

Increased collaboration is a core part of United Way NZ’s business model, and an approach that United Way Worldwide takes in 1,800 communities across the globe. As a sector we shouldn’t be driven down this path by government, economic downturn or imperatives, we should be focused on the best way to achieve outcomes for the communities we service. And those communities would often be better serviced by increased collaboration.

Dan Sullivan got it right when he said “We remain young to the degree that our ambitions are greater than our memories”.
I suggest we (charities) remain necessary to the degree that our ambition to collaboratively work together to achieve lasting social change is greater than our memories of how we used to do it alone, our way.

Don Oliver, Chief Executive, United Way NZ.

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