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The Immense Power of Partnerships in the Nonprofit World

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The word “partnership” has many meanings to all of us both inside and outside the nonprofit sector. We all know there is the formal legal definition which spells out formal responsibilities and such. Let’s leave that particular one aside and focus on a couple others, which can make a difference for all of you reading this post.

HandshakeMy favorite mental picture of a partnership is one where a hand is reaching out to help another person in some manner.

The very best partnerships are the ones where both parties receive benefits. They also tend to be the ones which last for decades, if not for generations. Let’s dig deeper into a couple of types of partnerships where such win/win scenarios are commonplace.

Mentoring Partnerships

Sometimes people consider mentoring to be one sided with the majority of the benefits going to the person being mentored. I personally have been fortunate to be associated with several mentoring programs. No matter whether I have been the mentor, which has been much more the case the last twenty years, or the person being mentored, the benefits have always been more than expected.

Mentoring relationships often last for a lifetime. This is rightfully so, since the impact made is often profound. A few of my mentors in the nonprofit world made significant differences in the level of my own personal commitment and passion toward the sector. I certainly hope I have come close to doing the same for the people I have mentored.

Mentoring is mentioned because both for-profits serving the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organizations themselves can utilize such a program to truly develop young talent and to enhance leaders. This is also a wonderful way to help new board members become more involved and up to speed quicker.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

Referral Partnerships

Stop and think how influential referrals are to you in your personal decision-making. A strong referral from someone you trust is virtually priceless in value. The amount of weight such referrals carry is hard to describe or even compare to other factors.

Every organization should strive for as many referral partners as possible. Each nonprofit I have the privilege to serve on the board of is proactive in this area of relationship building. Such a network can be invaluable to your core mission as well as your fundraising efforts.

Strive to make such a referral program fun and somewhat formal. In the day and age of web site’s being so critical to our success, think about what a large network of referral partners can mean.  Take for example the large number of referral partners we’ve created relationships with.

Key benefits include:

  1. Strong Credibility
  2. Added SEO strength to your website
  3. Providing a “Feeder System” for your core services
  4. Establishing vital connections for fundraising and marketing
  5. Enabling opportunities for staffing and board recruitment

It is no surprise how powerful partnerships can be. Nobody has even come close to winning on the TV series Survivor without numerous partnerships. Perhaps that can be a lesson to all of us in the nonprofit world, as to the strength of partnerships. Best of luck in bringing your partnerships to life!

img via orinrobertjohn

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  • Keith Field

    I have never understood why so many non profits seem afraid of partnering in any way, as if they are sacrificing something they "have" to someone who will take it from them. We serve those who have served, and believe that no matter what the need behind being contacted either by phone or email, we need to know "someone" who can address the need, even if it is not us. I presume that is what you are refering to when you talk about referral partnerships. With regards to mentoring, how I wish more people who have walked this road before me, who would take my hand and prevent me from the multitude of mistakes I continue to make.
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