The Value of High-Impact Partnerships

by | Sep 20, 2023 | Board Development, Leadership Development, Nonprofit Capacity Building

In the nonprofit world, we talk a lot about partnerships.

Funders want to know grantees are working together. Organizations want to avoid duplicating efforts. And leaders know that partnerships often make smart business sense. Unfortunately, too many partnerships fail to reach their potential.

That’s why creating a successful and high-impact partnership requires thoughtful planning from the start.


Partnership on Our Minds

For nonprofits, partnerships can help increase both partners’ capacity and impact. A 2021 survey of nonprofits in Illinois revealed that:

  • 1% of nonprofit leaders reported that their organization regularly considers strategic partnerships as an option to enhance and sustain mission impact.
  • 90% of funders agreed or strongly agreed that their foundation or organization considers strategic partnerships as capacity building and/or an option to enhance and sustain mission impact.

But as much as partnerships are highly valued, effective ones are hard to come by. Researchers consistently find that 60% to 70% of partnerships ultimately fail. While most data on partnerships comes from the private sector, nonprofits traditionally have even fewer resources than their corporate counterparts. This could make developing successful long-term partnerships even more challenging.

Luckily, there are approaches to building partnerships that we know work.


Partnerships That Pay Off

What are the common denominators for successful partnerships?

  • Aligning on purpose, goals, and outcomes from the very start. 47% of managers cite alignment on objectives as a core reason for the success of joint ventures. Every partnership may have a different goal, so establishing clarity can take time and effort. But as with any project, if you don’t know your goal, how can you expect to achieve it?
  • Establishing strong communication. Communication within an organization can be challenging in its own right. Once you add in working across organizations? If you’re familiar with the old game of “telephone,” it’s easy to see how partnerships could hit unexpected roadblocks. It makes perfect sense, then, that 44% of managers cite effective communication as being key to partnership success.
  • Being open to new insights and opportunities. It’s tempting to fall into a habit of transactional partnerships. For example, if you’re launching a new report, you might ask other groups in your field to amplify social media coverage. Similarly, 57% of businesses use partnerships to get new customers. But partnerships aren’t only about give and get. 44% of businesses seek alliances for new ideas, insights, and innovation, while 55% do it because they want to become more strategic and targeted. For nonprofits, partnerships can bring many of the same benefits.


Ready to Build High-Impact Partnerships?

Join Funding for Good’s September 2023 webinar, High Impact Partnership Planning.

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