by Marie Palacios

In recent months Funding For Good has been working with several nonprofits as they develop amazing new outreach programs. Many have solid goals and objectives but are still struggling to incorporate strategic partnerships into that final program design.

We are finding that it is tempting to justify why a particular community organization should invest in your project or program without any “financial incentive.”

Non-profit professionals tend to get tunnel vision and believe that potential partners should jump on board, no questions asked.  Some common themes among assumptions are below.

This program directly aligns with their mission so of course they should be happy to participate!

We are doing them a favor by including them in such an amazing project.

This project, it will increase their credibility in the community.

Think of how much visibility our project will offer to their organization!

What is taking them so long to decide? Saying “YES” is the only logical thing to do!

We honestly expect people to do back flips when we invite them to partner on a project. When an invitation to partner is met with hesitation or resistance we quickly change our tune and become frustrated and defensive.

When this happens it is important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and evaluate how conversations can focus on a MUTUALLY beneficial partnership that respects each partner’s MUST HAVES.

Recently Funding For Good worked with two community groups that simply could not agree to the terms of a partnership. The organization proposing the partnership was generously offering to raise all the funds, implement the project, and support the data tracking/reporting process. They simply requested that another community organization provide the venue for the project during normal operating hours.

The second organization recognized the value of the project but could not seem to move past how the project would increase the work load of their small volunteer group. It didn’t matter that the project aligned with their mission, would generate great publicity, or would bring new participants and possibly new donors through their doors. They understood that they could not demand that volunteers give more than they had expressed ability or willingness to contribute.

What do you do when you find yourself in a deadlock?

Do you let an amazing project slip away or do you look for creative ways to build the capacity of each group in realistic ways? Rather than criticize the second nonprofit for focusing on the “small” details or trying to paint the big picture so they come to their senses…try listening.

If an organization is being honest about their capacity, or lack of capacity, it is in your best interest to pay attention. If you ignore valid concerns they will only come back to bite you in the future and could negatively impact the successful implementation or completion of the project.

When exploring mutually beneficial partnerships it is important to address the following questions:

  1. Does the project align with the mission of both organizations?
  2. Who would be the fiscally responsible organization?
  3. What resources will each organization contribute? (time, dollars, expertise, materials, etc.)
  4. Who is the point of contact and/or authorized decision maker for each organization as it relates to the project?
  5. What are the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of each organization that could impact the project? (brief SWOT analysis)
  6. What are the MUST HAVES for each organization? (communication requirements, planning time, capacity issues addressed, public relations/acknowledgements, etc.)
  7. How will both organizations engage the community in the project? (program delivery)
  8. How will finds be generated and expended?(fiscal process)
  9. How will you jointly promote the program, partnership, and the impact created?
  10. Will you create a written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure both parties  clearly understand goals, roles, and responsibilities?

Keep in  mind many donors and foundations look for collaborations and partnerships before investing in a program, project or organization.  These relationships, and how well they work, can directly affect interest and income for your organization so plan them strategically. Keep growing for good!

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