Travelling Alone or Together?

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Folks have joked that in Boulder County, a hotbed for innovation, people wake up with a good idea for our community and by nightfall, form a new nonprofit. The current tally of more than 700 local nonprofits would seem to bear that out. Creativity and entrepreneurial spirit drive civilization and progress forward, and we salute that! There is always room for a better idea or an improved product or service. 

The IRS reported 1.8 million tax exempt organizations nationwide last year, and granted 501(c)3 status to 79,545 more organizations by the end of the year (86,915 new nonprofits were birthed the prior year!).  Perhaps building new nonprofits isn’t the best way to take a great idea to fruition!

Recently, I spoke with a group of dynamic university students from across the U.S., all focused on careers in the social sector. They have a wealth of ideas and are passionate about improving communities. And while many of them have dreamed of starting a non-profit, what intrigued them most was a conversation we had about implementing their ideas faster and cheaper without adding to the sector’s existing infrastructure. 

Innovation doesn’t require a separate office, a whole new team or a new legal entity. Partnering with an existing organization with a similar or complementary objective can foster, mentor and accelerate a new strategy at a fraction of the cost.  Leveraging built-in community connections, and financial and operating structures reduces headaches and time-consuming administration. An experienced partner can help reduce risk and increase the probability of success.

There’s something to be said for youthful idealism. These students care more about reaching goals than taking credit or nurturing ego and turf. I think we all have something to learn from them.  Folks wanting to introduce new solutions to make our community better can often drive their initiative further and faster by collaborating. 

Foothills United Way’s role is to unite community assets to advance the common good. Our grants provide an incentive for organizations to work together, not separately.  Our energy is focused on helping organizations build productive partnerships and navigate the less familiar terrain of sharing strategies, responsibility and credit. Join forces with us and help build an even higher-performing social services sector


- Doug Yeiser

President & CEO of

Foothills United Way