a group of various people standing in a circle with their hands all stacked in the center

Created for Unity

Immortalized through catchy slogans and sage sayings, there is tremendous strength and agility born out of individuals uniting around a common goal.

  • Many hands make light work.
  • United we stand, divided we fall.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work.

Since we hear variations of these phrases so often, they can feel a little cheesy and fall flat. But despite the multitude of motivational posters and company coffee mugs boasting such pithy proverbs, their existence—and ongoing endurance—points to an exquisite reality:

We were made to work together.

Consider the last time you heard about volunteers and emergency service personnel rallying to clean up after a natural disaster. Recall the most recent winter coat drive for your local homeless shelter. Remember your relocation from one home to another. In each of these situations, people joined forces to accomplish a clearly defined task. Resources contributed to each cause were evaluated and leveraged to make the greatest impact.

Now imagine the outcomes for these same scenarios if every person wanted to do something to help, but they did it on their own instead of in concert with others.

The cleanup might take years instead of months.

Only a few people in need might receive warm coats.

You would have had to waste more back-and-forth trips between Home 1 and Home 2.

To be fair, the work gets done, and it might even get done well. But precious time is lost, fewer positive outcomes are realized, and morale erodes swiftly. What’s more, resources are scattered between each effort—a little here, a little there, and a little more way over there. The effect is more of a patchy drizzle instead of a soaking rain: good and necessary, but much more is needed to successfully overcome the drought.

Now apply this concept to today’s missional world. A multitude of wonderful organizations are actively addressing the most urgent physical and spiritual needs of mankind through water projects, justice missions, discipleship programs, and so many more. Altruistic people are accomplishing extraordinary things for consequential purposes.

Having a vast number of groups working on the same social, physical, or spiritual issue is one of the most positive things about the current philanthropic climate. However, having a vast number of groups working independently on these issues creates silos of knowledge and resource. Disparate technologies and solutions can emerge. Some efforts may even be redundant. All of this can unnecessarily slow the very necessary work that each organization is trying to accomplish.

Having a vast number of groups working independently on these issues creates silos of knowledge and resources.

But how do you harness the energy and ideas and goals from so many organizations and channel them toward sustainable collective impact?

Enter the backbone organization.