YOU ARE AWESOME – you’ve started a nonprofit organization! You saw a need in your community, organized a group of like-minded folks, formed a Board of Directors, applied for federal tax exemption, and you’ve asked people to support the cause with donations of time and money. As your capacity to address the need grows, you seek larger financial support from local foundations, and you’ve even thought about applying for a government grant. This is all as it should be, and part of the standard trajectory of almost all charitable organizations.
Along the way and through the years, you’ve undoubtedly met and perhaps even worked with other organizations that could help you accomplish some piece of your mission. But at this stage, it’s likely that you funded your part, and your partner funded theirs. Resources are scarce (even when they’re not) and a lot of us clutch at every dime. After all, we worked hard to raise that money… we’re not going to give it away, right?
But here’s the deal… collaboration is everything. Yes, one person can do a lot to change the world (especially if they’ve got the resources to do it). If Bill and Melinda Gates want to combat malaria, they assemble a team, educate themselves seeking root causes, design a plan, and execute. They invest in solutions, learn lessons the work teaches them, improvise, adapt, and overcome. But ask yourself this – do they do it alone? Do Bill and Melinda spend years in Africa killing mosquitos by hand? Definitely not. Instead, they find people and organizations already steeped in the work of addressing inequity, mosquito-borne illness, child mortality, youth services, policy, advocacy, and research. They work with them, funding initiatives and solutions to stop malaria. They become funding partners in the work – and they get results.
Bill and Melinda Gates have accomplished many great things. And, while they are not the first philanthropists to reap the rewards of collaboration, we see funders and grant-making entities demand (and perhaps even legislate) partnership from their grantees.
So – back to your nonprofit. Establishing a partnership can be hard, right? It seems that it might even threaten your financial position by drawing your donors’ attention to other causes, right? Nonprofits can have some good reasons not to collaborate. Just like families, nonprofits have their own members, philosophies, personalities, structures, history, and culture. The decision to collaborate can raise questions about who leads, who pays, who gets credit, and perhaps most importantly, whether the family will still feel like a family. However, the benefits that come from collaboration can be huge. Let’s take a look at the top 2 reasons to collaborate:
Nonprofits, by definition, are “charitable organizations”. We serve charitably. We give to those in need. Because we serve those most in need, causes receiving said services simply cannot compensate us for our costs. It simply isn’t possible. And so, nonprofits have to convince funders with money, time, and other resources to give. If you approach a funder and tell them that your organization will provide services, but only IF the funder invests – you’re going to get much more traction if you can prove to the funder that you’re working with local schools, businesses, health care providers, funders, and others to accomplish your mission. Partnerships (memorialized in writing) do much to validate your organization’s capacity to serve.
Secondarily, partnerships serve to expand your donor base, attract “in-kind” donations of time and materials, and have the potential to develop earned income opportunities. If, through a partnership with a school, your organization delivers mentoring services to at-risk youth – and if that work is funded through grants – the grants are going end. The money received through grants is almost always finite and almost always tied to a specific period of performance. What happens when it ends? Well, if your partnership is strong, your school partner knows the value of your work and will know how it directly relates to improved outcomes for their students. And, if the need still remains, they’ll seek ways to incorporate costs into their budgets so that the positive outcomes continue.
Awareness and Innovation
Partnerships help increase awareness and the ability to respond to the need you address. It’s a big, complicated and noisy world out there, and it’s amazing how much slips by us all. Through individual outreach and formalized training, the staff of all of your partnering organizations and businesses have an opportunity to learn about the need your organization addresses. As necessity is the mother of invention, folks can’t possibly invent solutions without knowing about the need. You might be lucky enough to have one of your partners come up with a really innovative solution – simply because a partnership allowed you to educate them about the need.
Funders look at who your collaborative partners are and the roles they play to address the greater good. To that end, nonprofits should always have at least ten collaborative partners they can list in every grant application. Fewer than ten, and your organization appears to be remiss in its networking duties and perhaps slacking in community involvement. Funders see that your program is operating in a silo and is therefore missing out on stakeholder feedback and opportunity to innovate. Submitting a grant application that omits collaborative partners drastically reduces your chance of proving that you can leverage every available dollar and capture every possible innovation to maximize the combinative impact for your target population.
Simplify and Streamline the Time Consuming Process of Securing Partners
When requesting funds, it’s important to demonstrate that your grant initiative has the support and buy-in of the community. Most grant applications require documented Partnership Agreements and Letters of Support from the organizations you’ll be partnering with to make your initiative successful.
If you’re finding the partnership requirements for grant applications difficult to manage, Resource Associates can help. Our Partner Coordination Services simplify and streamline the time consuming process of securing partners and gathering the required documentation for grant applications.
Resource Associates’ dedicated partner development team will:
- Identify and solicit quality partners
- Define and document the commitment of each partner
- Secure quality partner documentation from new and existing partners
Partnerships and the proper documentation are often a stumbling block for organizations seeking grant funding. Your time is best used in the development of your grant initiative. Let Resource Associates do the heavy lifting that will improve your chances of winning funds.
Free White Paper!
For tips to ensure you have the proper partnership documentation, download our whitepaper, Partnership Documentation: A Critical Component of a Winning Grant Application. Or, contact Resource Associates for more information at 505-326-4245.
About the Author
Rachel Nawrocki, Director of Client Funding
Rachel brings over 25 years’ experience in nonprofit excellence, program development, training, evaluation, and grant project management to Resource Associates’ Outreach Team. She’s an expert in many areas of capacity building and works with each client and its community partners to assess eligibility, program compatibility, and capacity for grant pursuits. She also specializes in sustainability. This means her clients are coached on how to continue programs without the reliance on soft monies while actively pursuing all potential grant and other funding opportunities to build new and existing initiatives. Ms. Nawrocki comes to Resource Associates having managed a broadly-scoped human services nonprofit at which she lead the development of 73 grant-funded projects raising $35 million in funds over 9 years. Rachel has served as the Vice President of Cultural Resources Management Consultants, the Director of Human Resources at Consolidated Constructors, and has worked as a professional fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C. If you feel you have hit a glass ceiling when it comes to growing or sustaining your organization and its good work, consider Rachel your innovative solutions provider.