Our Habitat:Keep Silos Out of Your Habitat By Matthew Whittle

If you work in the nonprofit world long enough, one of the most frustrating things you’ll run into is what we call the silo effect.

That’s when, just like with the grain silos that are sealed to protect their contents, organizations seal themselves and their ideas and their energy off from each other. And while we want those grain silos to be secure and to do their jobs well, there are rarely any benefits from organizations that serve the same community being isolated in their silos.

That isolation leads to families falling between the cracks and going unserved. It leads to competition for limited resources rather than cooperation. It leads to disillusionment among clients, volunteers, donors and staff. And just like grain can eventually rot if left in a silo too long, so can a nonprofit and its ideas stagnate and lose their effectiveness.

The most unfortunate thing about this silo effect, though, is that it’s almost never intentional. Nonprofits, large and small, often start with plans to cooperate and collaborate. But then the pressures of day-to-day operations creep in and staff and boards become so focused on carrying out their mission and trying to survive that they eventually stop looking outside their own walls and next thing you know, they’ve built a silo.

But nothing in a healthy habitat exists in a vacuum. A healthy habitat – a healthy community – has various parts and pieces that work together. And so even as we build homes at Habitat, we also have a goal of working with other agencies, breaking down walls and getting out of our silos to improve our community.