Best practices for building non-profit partnerships and collaborations
Last week I decided to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Binghamton located in Binghamton, NY. The Club was celebrating construction of their Education Center (underwritten by donors like the Decker Foundation) and the future home of the Pejo Theater (a performing arts space underwritten by donors like board volunteer Dr. Samuel Pejo). So, I thought I’d share a few pictures as well as a number of best practices as it relates to creating collaborative partnerships.
In the picture above, you see clients, staff, board volunteers and donors officially cutting the ribbon for the new programming space.
In the picture above, you see executive director Marybeth Smith amplifying the stewardship messages from the event to the community via news media.
In the picture above, you see UnitedHealthcare distributing insurance information to the community outside of the Boys & Girls Club. Stated another way, you see the organization sharing its big day and the stage with another company for the benefit of families and neighbors.
In the picture above, you see neighbors lining up for food from a local food bank affiliated with Feeding America. As with the previous picture, the Boys & Girls Club is sharing its big day with other non-profit organizations for the benefit of families and neighbors.
As I walked into the clubhouse and throughout the entire ribbon cutting ceremony, everywhere I turned I saw collaboration and partnership in motion. Having once worked on the front line of a Boys & Girls Club, I walked away from my time with this Club marveling at all the hard work they obviously put into building partnerships.
Collaboration is something that donors LOVE to see because:
- they see it as proof that community support is being leveraged
- it feels like “economies of scale” are being achieved
- it is perhaps proof that services aren’t being duplicated and costs (at least efforts) are being shared
Of course, collaboration and partnership sounds easy, but in reality it never is. So, I thought I’d share a few best practices and links to resources to those of you wanting to replicate the successes you see in the pictures I’ve posted. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Sit down with potential partners, talk through the issues and put the plan in writing
- Formalize and codify your collaboration in a written “memorandum of understanding” that spells out who has agreed to do what
- Maintain routine communication with each other after the planning phase
- Involve as many stakeholders in the dialog before, during and after the collaboration/partnership (e.g. volunteers, board members, staff, clients, donors, etc)
- Build into your partnership routine evaluation/assessment opportunities and commit to a continuous cycle of learning and self-improvement
- Celebrate your successes — TOGETHER
Interested in reading much more about how to design and implement productive collaborative partnerships? Here are a few resources I found online and think are awesome:
- Center for Nonprofit Excellence: “Toolbox Overview for Building Needle-Moving Community Collaborations“
- Foundation Center: “Nonprofit Collaboration Resources“
- Third Sector Today: “6 Good Reasons for Nonprofit Collaboration“
Does your non-profit organization do a good job with identifying, framing, implementing and evaluating partnerships and collaborations with others (e.g. non-profits, for-profits, individuals, etc)? If so, what do they look like? What has worked for you and made these efforts successful in your opinion?
Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC