How The Concept of a “Rising Tide” Could Support Nonprofits


Published by on November 21, 2023

At recent count, 10% of the US workforce works at a nonprofit.

16 million people are out there being agents of change, tackling pressing challenges with a dedication that’s second to none. 

But let’s face it, they often find themselves in a resource squeeze (time, manpower, funding), and they’re up against some seriously complex issues (hunger, homelessness, war, disease). The question is, how can they maximize their potential for change?

Well, amid these challenges, there’s something special at play here. Unity, connection, and shared purpose might just hold the key to a greater impact. What happens when nonprofits collaborate, network, and create a sense of community? How does that change future outcomes? 

And can knowledge sharing, advocacy, and engaged volunteers and donors truly work miracles in transforming lives and communities?

Join us as we delve into these questions and explore how community and connection could be the superpower supporting the world’s changemakers.

Challenges and Opportunities in Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations face a multitude of challenges on their path to a brighter future. Financial constraints often make it difficult to secure the necessary funds for essential programs and to attract and retain skilled staff. In addition to financial hurdles, nonprofits are devoted to addressing complex and deeply rooted issues, such as poverty, healthcare disparities, and environmental conservation, which further add to the complexities they must navigate. Despite these formidable obstacles, their unwavering dedication remains at the core of their mission to drive positive change.

But here’s the good news: nonprofits have powerful tools at their disposal. When they team up with other organizations, share resources, and join forces, they can achieve much more together than on their own. It’s like the rising tide lifting all boats – by working collectively, they overcome resource limitations and create positive ripples throughout communities.

 In today’s digital age, nonprofits have new ways to connect and thrive. Social media and online fundraising platforms provide easy access to a global audience and essential funding. Donors and volunteers worldwide can support causes they care about with just a few clicks, giving nonprofits a broader support base and greater advocacy.

The Concept of "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats"

The Concept of “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats”

The saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” often attributed to President John F. Kennedy, conveys a simple yet profound idea. It means that when overall conditions or circumstances improve, it benefits everyone, regardless of their specific situation. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats in a harbor, collective progress can elevate the fortunes of all those involved.

In the context of the nonprofit sector, this notion holds great significance. Nonprofit organizations, though diverse in their missions, often face common challenges, such as limited resources and complex social issues. When nonprofits work together, collaborate, and form partnerships, they unlock fresh opportunities and resources. This can range from sharing expertise to co-hosting events, amplifying their collective impact and leading to innovative solutions benefiting the entire sector.

The concept of “a rising tide lifts all boats” underscores the promise of collective improvement. Through collaboration, nonprofits strengthen their resilience and adaptability. Fostering a sense of community extends to volunteers, donors, and supporters, creating deeper connections to the mission. This sense of belonging keeps volunteers engaged and encourages donors to contribute more frequently. The nonprofit sector, as a whole, thrives as organizations learn from one another’s successes and setbacks.

5 Benefits of the “Rising Tide” for nonprofit professionals

  1. Collaboration and Networking:
    • Nonprofit organizations are stronger together. Collaboration and networking within the sector allow these organizations to pool their resources and expertise to tackle more significant and complex issues.
    • By fostering a sense of community and interconnectedness, they can leverage their combined efforts to have a more profound impact on the communities they serve. This collaboration doesn’t just lead to more effective programs; it also demonstrates to donors and supporters that their contributions are part of a collective effort for positive change.
    • The nonprofit world is not a competitive marketplace but a cooperative endeavor where rising tides truly lift all ships.
    • Excellent example of nonprofit collaboration can be found between Chicago Youth Centers and Family Focus.
  2. Resource Sharing:
    • Nonprofits often grapple with limited resources. Whether it’s funding, volunteers, or specialized skills, these limitations can hinder their ability to effect change.
    • However, building connections and a sense of community enables organizations to share resources more efficiently. For instance, one nonprofit might have surplus office space that another can utilize. Collaboration on grant applications and fundraising events enhances the chances of success.
    • The result? Greater efficiency in resource allocation, more funds reaching the intended beneficiaries, and a stronger, more resilient nonprofit sector.
    • Nonprofit Support Network put together this great article on how shared services have been instrumental in the adaption of nonprofit work.
  3. Knowledge Sharing:
    • Knowledge is a valuable asset in the nonprofit sector, but it’s not just for the few; it should be for the many. Capacity-building initiatives and knowledge sharing within a community of nonprofits empower these organizations to collectively improve their operations and outcomes.
    • Smaller nonprofits, in particular, benefit from the experience and expertise of larger counterparts.
    • By creating an environment where organizations freely exchange best practices, lessons learned, and know-how, the sector grows in effectiveness and impact. In the end, a rising tide of knowledge raises the quality and reach of all nonprofit endeavors.
    • This thesis on Knowledge Sharing Between Nonprofit and For Profit in the food bank industry was a great case study on cooperation.
  4. Advocacy and Awareness:
    • A sense of community in the nonprofit sector is a powerful tool for advocacy and raising awareness. When nonprofits unite and work together, they can more effectively amplify their voices on crucial issues, mobilize public support, and influence decision-makers.
    • By standing together, these organizations create a chorus that is harder to ignore. It’s not just about their individual missions; it’s about the broader mission of social betterment.
    • In this way, the rising tide of advocacy lifts not just the nonprofits but the communities they serve.
    • While advocacy work took a hit during COVID, AFP Global has some great suggestions on how to Building Back your Advocate Community.
  5. Volunteer Engagement:
    • Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofit organizations, and fostering a sense of community among them is crucial. Encouraging volunteers to connect with one another and with the organizations they support creates a more engaged and committed volunteer base.
    • When volunteers feel part of a larger community working toward a common goal, they are more likely to continue their involvement and contribute their time and skills consistently.
    • This sense of belonging and shared purpose enhances the sustainability and impact of nonprofits.
    • Volunteer Canada provides excellent resources on how to engage with volunteers and make them feel a part of your social impact community.
5 Benefits of the “Rising Tide” for nonprofit professionals

Community as a guiding principle for nonprofit success.

In the vast sea of challenges, nonprofits navigate to create positive change, they find strength in unity and support. As we’ve explored, the concept of “a rising tide lifts all boats” is not only a relevant metaphor but a guiding principle for the nonprofit sector. The challenges they face, from resource limitations to complex social issues, are formidable, but they are not insurmountable. The key lies in fostering connection and community.

In the digital age, nonprofits have unprecedented opportunities to engage and make a difference. Online platforms and social media have made it easier for them to connect with global supporters and secure vital funding. With the world just a click away, their potential for growth and impact is boundless. Platforms like The Nonprofit Hive will foster connection and community-building in the nonprofit sector. By working together, nonprofits can overcome resource constraints, navigate the maze of complex issues, and make a lasting difference.

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