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Nonprofit Collaborative Partnerships

by Kirby Rooks

Nonprofit collaborative partnerships are something every nonprofit should consider at this time. Why? The economy of the U.S. is on the downswing and well entrenched in a full blown recession for starters.

All nonprofits should be looking for ways to increase their impact at this time while also sharing expenses to get more bang for their buck. There is no better way then forming a collaborative partnership to accomplish this goal. A goal that is real because more people need more assistance during times of economic turmoil.

Funding sources in the past have given freely to nonprofit organizations that operated on a solo basis charting their path as a sole entity without regard to other nonprofit organizations.

Today funders are looking and suggesting that their grantees form these partnerships as a way to be more efficient. They want to support organizations that form strong bonds in order to bring change to their respective communities and are at least one year old.

Together these organizations can accomplish their goals in less time with fewer funds then they could by themselves. How do they do this you might ask yourself? Well, they pool their resources, merge their programs and assemble their talents to form partnerships that operate under a set of rules called a collaborative partnership agreement.

This agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties as a means to solidify the partnership. Partnerships that make the most headway are those that write and sign an agreement that spells out everything to do with the programs and partners.

It takes more then just a desire and a written document. It also happens because there is a certain amount of synergy involved with the organizations that enable them to want to form collaboration with another organization. You can't force a square peg in round hole!

In 2004 the United Way's Collaboration Learning Project discovered that there were characteristics of a successful partnership like we are discussing. They are:

  1. Committed Leadership. You have to have commitment at both the executive and the staff levels of both organizations.

  2. Unambiguous Goals. A clear and precise set of realistic and attainable goals are necessary for success in this venture we speak of.

  3. Clearly Defined Roles. The partnership has a specific plan on how best to use the strengths of both organizations to strive towards a set of attainable goals.

  4. Sustainability in the Midst of Change. There must be plans and effort made that creates a collaborative that is not inspired by one staff person but by teams of people.

It is important to understand all the ground rules, roles and synergy involved with any nonprofit collaborative. After it is discussed and decided then it must be but in action and any variance needs to be dealt with immediately by those responsible. This will make the funders for grant money a lot more secure and supportive of the collaborative.

So if you are a nonprofit how do you form a collaborative partnership? To start look around at your competitors and see if any would make good partners and if you're respective organizations are a good fit. Also you might ask some of the local politicians if they know of anyone whom you could have a discussion concerning this topic.

However you do it you have to go out and talk with your local people and get some advice and feedback to find that situation that fits your people best. After all it's the people that make a nonprofit happen and its people that make a collaborative effort successful.

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