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Monday, March 29, 2010

Teaming up: Partnerships build Funding, Advocacy and Brand Building Opportunities


Partnerships among nonprofits, and between for-profits and nonprofits, are among the best means I have found for non-profits and associations to build brands or advocate causes. The benefits include cost efficiencies, revenue opportunities for nonprofits, more sustainable nonprofit organizations, and better services for communities in addressing vital issues in conservation, education, healthcare, the arts, and economic development. Where once "corporate giving" meant writing an annual check to a favorite charity, more recently businesses and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have joined forces to achieve their separate, but related missions. Economic pressures are stressing the nonprofit sector in delivering much needed services, but the pressures will also drive savvy funders, nonprofit boards and executives to pursue innovations, partnerships, and efficiencies.

In my experiences, I have used the concept of identifying partnering organizations on the basis that working together we can accomplish more, and accomplish it faster it than by working alone. The key is to think strategically. Target your partners as you would your donors. Look for similar target groups, compatible missions, appropriate images and profiles and adequate resources. As for programs, set objectives that are of mutual benefit. Get the story straight and communicate it. Start slow and build for the long term, and measure and sell your success.

Effective communication is necessary to manage a collaborative venture. Managers should ensure that all of the partners understand their communication; they should avoid acronyms and jargon unless these are well known to all partners. Ideally the manager will be able to communicate a vision that will electrify the partners. The communication needs to be regular, frequent, consistent and clear. I also recommend building program collaborations among a multitude of partners for the greatest reach into the community.

So what are your experiences? Have you found partnerships to be useful? If so, how have you leveraged them?


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Mark Buzan is principal and chief magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service strategic communications, public relations and public affairs consultancy for nonprofits and associations. Mark has coordinated and negotiated a number of partnerships and sponsorship arrangements for non-profits and associations even using them to advocate to Parliament. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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