In this webinar, Mandy Pearce, CFRE will focus on fundamental concepts of understanding, developing, and maintaining strategic partnerships that will ensure long-term organizational success.
Steven: All right, Mandy. I got one o’clock on my watch. Is okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Mandy: Let’s do it.
Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast at least, and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Learning to Share Your Sandbox: How to Identify and Strengthen Key Partnerships.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of quick housekeeping items before we get going here officially. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording and the slides later on today. If you didn’t already get the slides, you’ll get them today, later today as well as the recording. So, if you have to leave early or maybe you just want to review the content or share it with a friend or colleague, have no fear, I’ll get all that good stuff in your hands this afternoon. I promise.
Most importantly, as you’re listening today, please, feel free to utilize that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. Might even answer some questions along the way, so don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands, send us your questions and comments. We like to make these as interactive as possible. You can do that on Twitter as well. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed.
And then, if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better. So, if you’re having any trouble, don’t give up on us entirely, try dialing in by phone if you can and if that will be comfortable for you. There’s a phone number you can dial in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about 15 minutes ago, a phone number just for you to use. So, give that a try if you have any trouble with the computer audio.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say extra special welcome to you folks for joining us. We do these webinars here at Bloomerang just about every single Thursday throughout the year. We literally only miss maybe one or two Thursdays, but in addition to that, as much as we love doing those webinars, we are also a provider of donor management software. So, if you are interested in that or maybe thinking about switching next year or just want to learn more about Bloomerang, check out our website. You can even watch a quick video demo of the software in action. So, if you don’t want to talk to a salesperson, you don’t have to. Who wants to do that after all? Sorry, salespeople. So, you can do that.
Don’t do that now because you all are in for a really awesome presentation. I am super excited to welcome back Mandy Pearce. She’s done a couple webinars for us. She writes for our blog, always awesome advice. And Mandy, I’m really happy to have you here. How’s it going? You doing okay?
Mandy: It’s going great. Thanks so much. We’re excited to be helping people out at the end of the year as they wrap up end of year fundraising and get ready for successful 2019. So, thanks for having us.
Steven: Yes. I love it. I just want to brag on you real quick. I don’t want to take up too much time away from you and your partner, but if you guys don’t know Mandy, got a check her out. Check out Funding for Good. Really, really, awesome website and we were talking before. And it’s just I like Mandy because she gives away a lot of free resources which if you know anything about Bloomerang, you know, we love to do that as well. So, you know, grant writing tips, grants in general, check out Funding for Good, great blog, great downloads. She’s been doing this for over 20 years, [inaudible 00:03:28] does a lot in grant writing, also does a lot of executive coaching and fundraising training. So, if you’re interested in that definitely look her up after this discussion. Also, a dog lover, as you can see in the picture there. Now, is that Leo or is that Dalli, Mandy? I can’t remember which one.
Mandy: That’s Leo. Dalli will make into her first marketing campaign this year. I think actually we may have it next week might be our photo shoot, but she had too much puppy last year to sit still for that.
Steven: Yes, I know, I understand. That’s hard. But yeah, if you’re a dog organization or animal rescue in general, you’ve got a kindred spirit here with Mandy. So, Mandy, I’ve already taken up too much of your time away. So, why don’t you go ahead and tell us all about partnerships. Go for it, my friend.
Mandy: You got it. So, I’m just trying to catch up with you on slides. There we go. So, today we’re going to talk about learning to share your sandbox. And as I mentioned, my business partner Marie Palacios is here with me today and we don’t always get to teach together but luckily she has some time in her schedule today and was able to pop over today and join us. And she is the guru on everything board development, strategic planning, and partnership related. So, I was glad to have her to join us today.
This first picture is actually a friend of hers daughter who didn’t want to share her sandbox. So, we felt that was actually a perfect picture to start today’s presentation with, because we have that problem a lot in the nonprofit world. We have lots of competition, not as much collaboration, and really collaboration is what we should be going for.
So, when we talk about collaboration, we look at . . . oh, we look at slides that don’t want to go over. I clicked it but it’s not working. There is one. I don’t know why that slide is not that coming up, Steven, the one it says collaboration.
Steven: Which one? I see . . . there we go.
Mandy: There it is, just pops up.
Steven: I see it now.
Mandy: That was weird. It’s okay. We flow with tech issues all the time. It’s all good. So, what we always tell people is today in the world of nonprofit anything, fundraising, partnership, growing, capacity building, it’s all about collaboration. People in the world want to see that you are collaborating to increase the impact you’re having in your community, or your region, or the world, whatever your area is. And they want to know that you’re doing with other people because you can do more as a group than you can by yourself. Nobody wants to see the lone ranger out there trying to do everything by themselves when there are wonderful organizations to partner with.
So, it turns out it’s not a gift from the gods with a skill that requires effort and patience, as Douglas Reeves said and that’s what we’re here to talk about a little bit today is how we get past this idea of competition. And come on, there we go. And divided efforts. In the for-profit world, it’s a little more common to see folks talking about competition and it makes more sense. But in the nonprofit world, we are all trying to serve. We’re all trying to serve to accomplish something.
So, as Marie will probably tell you in a few minutes, one of the things we encourage people to know is what’s the purpose of your organization? And if you started to do something that another organization is doing maybe the first initial conversation should have been a collaboration instead of starting a new organization. But sometimes competition makes us faster which is okay, but collaboration makes us better which is what we’re going for in the grand scheme of things. So, we’ll let Marie will introduce herself to you real quick and then she’s going to talk to you a little bit about the snapshot of the C word.
Marie: Hi, everyone. It’s great to be here with you all today. As Mandy, mentioned I come from a little bit different background but it makes us a stronger team. I’ve spent the last nearly two decades working either as a program director or an executive director of a nonprofit which means partnerships is a key part of every day. And one thing that you might realize if you’ve writing grants, if you’re out there and you’re saying, “Okay, we need to look at partnerships,” just ask yourself, why are we trying to partner? Most people will say, “Because we’re going to get this out of door, we’re going to get that about it, out of it.”
So, collaboration is not just about the outcomes and benefits for your organization. So, sometimes we look for the most obvious collaborations and partnerships because we’re looking at an immediate outcome. We can partner with them to get this materials. We can partner with this group to leverage these dollars. And while that’s great, we also want to look how look at the bigger scheme of things, how that contribution will contribute to our greater vision.
So, for example, if your organization has a vision that no one be hungry in your community, you might be focusing on children’s hunger relief through backpack programs. Your local Meals on Wheels might be focusing on seniors while someone else is focusing on the homeless or the veteran community, but you share a greater vision. You’re all going towards that vision of no one being hungry in your community. So, even though partnering in the moment might not produce an immediate result, it is about that longer-term vision and accomplishing that as a community group.
So, consider long-term visions not just immediate outcomes. And the ways that your collaborations can create opportunities not just for your organization but the people you serve and the people you partner with. Also, keep in mind that partnerships should be adapting and evolving. A lot of organizations collect partnerships like many of us do unmatched socks. So, you might walk in and say, “Why do we partner with this group? Why do we collaborate?” Well, because we always have. That’s not always the best answer, so you always want to be adapting, evolving, evaluating, and making sure that any of the partnerships you have are really contributing to your long-term sustainability and that they aren’t just taking up your valuable time and energy because maintaining relationships is time-consuming. So, you want to make sure you’re investing that time into relationships and collaborations that are really generating the results your organization wants to see.
So, typically if Mandy and I were standing in front of you and I’m going to just walk you through this exercise so that you can do it with, you know, your board or your community groups. We do a little exercise called Making Connections, because everything in the nonprofit world whether you’re going out to eat for lunch, whether you’re standing in line at your local grocery store, you’re always making connections.
So, if you want to get a mixer going in one of your community groups, set the clock for two minutes, have everyone get up, and just randomly start making connections. I typically will walk around with a little notebook and say okay, if these people that know each other, maybe they said, “Hey, we’re from the same community, or I know your organization, or I know your mom, or you know, our children go to the same school.” We typically make connections based on common ground. And as you go out and represent your nonprofit, you have to realize one size does not fit all. You can’t just have a pitch and expect that pitch to open doors across the entire community. Because every time you’re pitching, you’re pitching to a different individual and their interests, their hobbies, their passions are going to be different.
So, I encourage you as you work with your board who are your primary ambassadors, your staff, your volunteers that you get a great view of what your organization does. Also, the connections that are going to be important in growing that so that you know the resources you need. And when you’re out in the community, you’re starting those connections with a common ground. So, if you need a partner with the local soup kitchen, you’ll say, “Hey, did you know that our organization is working towards hunger relief in this area.” You’re not starting out with program that’s of no interest.
So, understanding your mission, understanding your needs, and understanding the community that you’re going to be connecting with is key to moving forward. So, just a quick exercise. Give everyone two-minutes. Get some connections going and then see how they made those to kind of coach them through that in the real world.
Mandy: And as you do the strategic introductions, you want to think about all the different ways that you could make, as Marie said, those connections with individuals. So, if you met me, for example, and I was teaching a seminar and in-person seminar for Bloomerang, then you might meet me as Mandy, owner of Funding for Good. And that would be how we connected. But if you met me at the dog park, then I would be Leo and Dalli’s mom. You wouldn’t know me as owner for Funding for Good. You probably wouldn’t even know my name is Mandy.
I don’t know how many of you have dogs out there, but anybody that goes to the dog park will tell you, “I have no idea what that person’s name is but I know it so and so’s owner,” right? So, it’s Spot’s owner, or it’s Bella’s owner, or whatever. So, that’s how you get to know them. If I was with my brother in Charlotte having dinner and you met me, I would not be Mandy, I would be Demian’s sister. So, it completely depends on how you know an organization or an individual, is to how you’re going to introduce yourself and how you’re going to break down those walls, so you can begin strategic introductions and conversations that will help you when talking about your sandbox.
So, if you think about it, and you guys can be honest because you’re sitting either in your office, or in your car, or wherever you’re sitting by yourself and think, “How many organizations or people for that matter truly collaborate with similar nonprofits or nonprofits that might be helpful to them if it doesn’t benefit the bottom line in some way?” And I also let you guys answer that for yourself.
But in my experience, it has been not a lot. Most people want to know what they’re getting out of something not just what they can offer to someone else or not just let’s look down the road how might does help us in the future. A majority of people are truly only seeing what’s in front of them right now and what’s going to be of a direct benefit to them right now. So, in order to get past that and really move on and figure out how to create effective partnerships and collaborations to serve more people, grow your organization, increase the number of people that you have in your programs or whatever, you would need to do something that we call a detox and I will let Marie me tell you about that.
Marie: So, how many of you have ever heard someone say, “You can never have enough partnership, you can never have too many partnerships.” And I’m going to probably burst that little bubble today and say you probably can. There are such a thing as too many partnerships because as we mentioned partnerships are based on relationships. And if I asked, if I were to able to go through the room right now and see everyone on this list and say, “How many best friends do you have?” Typically you say, “I have a best friend. I have some other close friends,” but investing in a relationship takes time and energy, finding common ground, overcoming communication barriers, there’s going to be bumps along the way, there’s going to be celebrations, but that all takes time.
So, a lot of nonprofits go out there saying, “We’re going to make as many connections as possible and make and use all of our time to build connections and partnerships. And while that concept sounds great in theory, the reality is, is that we need to do some introspection and say, “What is our mission? What is our vision?” Our mission is where we’re going and then . . . our vision is where we’re going and the mission is how we’re getting there. So, if our vision is no one be hungry in our community and our mission is that we’re providing resources, jobs, opportunities, food pantry, then you know, who should we be partnering on those things and what’s our plan to get there?
Once you know who you are and you can say, “This is who we are, these our core values, this is our mission and vision.” Then it’s easier to find like-minded organizations, but it’s better to collaborate and build a few strong collaborations than lots of weak ones. Because when you build a partnership, you become identified with that person. It’s just like your best friend or your significant other, if they make a stupid mistake or . . . you basically get judged by their actions, when your name is on a community partners’ brochure, or flyer, or event thing and something goes wrong, then that’s your credibility on the line there.
So, what I would encourage you to do is focus on building strong partnerships and to begin that process. Look at the ones that are there in existence right now, evaluate your memorandum of agreement, look at the history and see which one of those partnerships are not really bringing about the fruits you want to see. And to do this, a simple SWOT analysis is helpful. And for those of you who are new to this concept SWOT, simply means strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. So, you might have done this at the entire organizational level, but Mandy and I always encouraged groups we work with to do a SWOT analysis for each program, for the board of directors, and even partnerships.
What are the strengths of each partnership? What are the weaknesses? What are the opportunities and threats? That’s going to help you through this detox process to make sure that you’re clearing out the old that are not, you know, maybe they don’t need to be primary partners. Maybe they could be some types of collaboration, but they’re not listed as your primary partners and you can open up that time for partnerships that really are going to grow the organization.
Mandy: So, I mean, a lot of times it can be overwhelming to think about putting all this together. What do you do? How do you do it? So, we put together a couple of questions for you, if you’re going to do a SWOT analysis or if you get to that point that you need to. We are going to give you a couple questions if you want to think about and be able to answer. Will your partnership solve or address any of the weaknesses or threats facing your organization, right? So, I’m sorry, I was reading a comment and I just got sidetracked, but anyway . . .
Marie: She’s a dog lover.
Mandy: I am a dog lover. Will your partnership solve or address any of the weaknesses or threats facing your organization? And it should. Will your partnership bring to fruition any of the opportunities listed? And it should. Will your partnership give your organization a competitive advantage or build upon its existing strengths? And it should. And if it doesn’t do any of those things, then the next question you ask yourself is, “Why are we considering this partnership,” right?
So, there are probably a ton of really amazing organizations out there that might like to work with you. They might like to partner with you, but if it doesn’t make sense strategically, if it’s not going to help move your organization, or program, or projects forward, if it’s not going to increase your impact in the community, maybe that’s a group that you support and advocate for. But you don’t necessarily have to partner with them. Does that makes sense? Hopefully those questions will help you as you move forward and really think about, “Who should we be partnering with why or why not?” And so, the next piece is internal conversations that Marie is going to talk to you a little bit about.
Marie: Sure. And we’re going to spend a little bit more time on this in later slides, but these internal conversations are really important because if you’re coming in, if you’re coming into a new organization you don’t maybe, maybe you don’t understand the community dynamics yet. How many of you have ever started a new job and you say, “Why don’t we partner with this other history organization, or this other animal welfare group that’s in town, or the local, you know, this organization? It seems like a perfect fit.”
So, it’s always great to have those conversations internally first because if you go out and say, “Hey, I’m going to go reach out to this local business owner or this local nonprofit, you might not know the full story.” So, I’m not sure if you’ve done this with your group, but maybe sit around, put the partnerships up on the board and say, “What do we know about these groups?”
And you’re going to ask some key questions. What are the contacts on your board? Because you might not be the best person to launch that partnership conversation, there may be someone in the room that has an open door, or they’re able to open that door for you or help build that relationship, and if you jump the gun, you might miss some incredible opportunities that having that board member, that volunteer go with you might strengthen that ask. So, definitely put your partnerships out in front of your board, your staff, your volunteers as you do this detox. And you make a list of who you really should be partnering with.
A couple different ways to identify strategic partnerships. And you can see our dog theme is continuing here. We all have rescues in this, in our world. The community evaluation is really important. And these are a few key questions you can ask. Who’s working on the same or similar issues or needs? And we’ve just talked about the vision.
Last night, I had the pleasure of going and working with a group down the road and identifying their vision statement. So, they had a mission statement, but it wasn’t quite . . . they didn’t have a vision statement. We said, well, the mission is how you’re going to get to that place and that vision is where you want to go. So, you want to make sure you have a vision statement. Where are you going? What is the world or your community going to look like if you are successful? How you’re going to get there? Once you know where you’re going, you ask who’s going there in that same direction with us.
Where are the gaps? If you’re working on the hunger, you know, in your community and someone is not focusing on veterans or the homeless, then identified those gaps, because instead of starting a nonprofit you might partner. The number one reason we see well-intentioned people wanting to start their own nonprofits is because they’ve identified a gap or what they perceive to be a gap in the community. So, they come to us and say, “I want to start my own nonprofit because there’s this gap.” And we say, “First of all, do you know there’s a gap for sure. Have you really done your due diligence and you’re connected?” And two, why start your own nonprofit if there’s another group that has the same vision, but maybe you could just partner with them to create a program?
So, consider the difference between partnering, maybe opening up suggestions for part on programs and then saying, “Who can do it best?” If there’s another organization in the community better equipped, let them have it. Provide that support because your energy and resources are better focused to elsewhere.
Who else is impacted by what we do? There are some unlikely partnerships that can be identified this way. It might be a local business, it might be local community members, it might be a school, it might be one of many, many people that will be impacted by your mission. So, think who is impacted and who shares a common interest? Who will bring added value? Who is you willing to contribute to this project’s success?
In the nonprofit world when we’re looking to partner, whether it be kind of secure new board members or volunteers, we usually say, “We want a lawyer. We want an attorney.” And I encourage you to not to look at job titles. Look at what you need and who’s going to help you accomplish the goals that you have in front of you. Don’t look at job titles. We need an attorney, we need this or that, because those are people, and while they may have the skill set, they may not have the time, availability, energy, or interest. So ask, what do we need? What are we trying to accomplish? And who can we partner with to make that happen?
Then, you should by at this point have a pretty long list. You might have everyone in the community listed. Even the smallest communities here in North Carolina have several hundred nonprofits. Was in a community last night, was shocked to hear that they had 428 nonprofits in their very small community, 428. Another community that we were just working with last week had over 3,000 nonprofits in their community.
So, it’s easy to look at that and say, “Hey wait a second, these are all competitors,” but those are also potential collaborators. So, if you don’t know who in your community is working in the nonprofit sector, you can go to TaxExemptWorld. Put in your state and your community, and you will be able to see exactly who in your community is working in the nonprofit sector. Your local chamber might be able to tell you this, but if you go to taxexemptworld.com, believe it’s dotcom, TaxExemptWorld you can pull up the entire list of nonprofits in your community even their 990s, you can see who’s funding them, you can see what they’re doing. Lots of valuable information, understanding what other nonprofits are in your community.
You’re going to ask, “Who could be at the table?” That list is going to be longer and then you’re going to narrow it down and say, “Who should be at the table?” So, there might be lots of different reasons to eliminate someone. It’s just kind of like, we always say that everything’s like building relationships is kind of like dating. You may have some good prospects, but once you sit down and start talking to someone and kind of seeing those deal-breakers, you start checking those names off pretty quickly. You’re not left with as many options.
Same thing in partnerships, you might have an organization that aligns with you perfectly on paper, but they have poor leadership, or maybe they’ve gotten into hot water with some of their fiscal management, or they’re just not as transparent as your organization would like to be.
Remember that when you begin a primary partnership, where you begin identifying yourself with another group, your reputation is on the line. So, be very thoughtful, be very considerate, just as you screen and evaluate potential board members or volunteers, you should go through that same prospecting and screening with partners. And I typically do not see nonprofits doing the due diligence to screen potential partners. They’re just excited when someone says, “Hey, we can help you do this.” And we are so desperate that we say, “Awesome, that’s great. You’re going to help us do X, Y, or Z.”
So, it’s really important to screen the nonprofits you’re working with. If they say, “We can help you do X, Y, or Z.” What is their capacity? What is, you know, do they have the credibility? Is this person usually just saying what other people want to hear? Do they follow through? Once you can have that roundtable conversation and say, “Is this organization the best fit?” Then you could say, “Who should be at the table?” Not just who could be.
Mandy: Hopefully that gave you a lot of ideas for ways to evaluate potential future partnerships. And here’s just a couple of follow-up questions that you might want to write down for yourself. Once you’re thinking about who could and should be around the table, who has of that group has the resources that you need? And by resources it can be anything from specific skill set, abilities, knowledge, maybe it’s dollars, maybe it’s space, maybe it’s staff or volunteer capacity, history, experience.
So, there’s a lot of different resources that people can have and who has the ones you need, which means you have to know what you need first. Who has a history of success? So, who’s been doing some things that has a history of success that might be able to help you, move forward, learn how to do it yourself, maybe they can do it and you don’t have to do it, so you can, as Marie said earlier, focus on the things that you are really good at.
Marie: And for new nonprofits, when you’re writing those first grants or you’re going to your first donors, they’re going to ask you, “Share your history of success.” And one of the big questions we get from first-time grant requesters, they say, “How do we say that?” You identify the people that you’re partnering with and you say, “We’re partnering with a Red Cross, or we’re partnering with the local YMCA, or another organization that has credibility as it says.” So you can say, “If these groups are willing to partner with us, you as a donor should build feel comfortable investing in us through these grant dollars as well.” So, who you choose to partner with, is who you’re going to be able to share that history of success with which can help you leverage dollars.
Mandy: And then, I’m sure that none of you know anybody in your community that does not play well with others, but if you’re going to choose a partner, make sure that it’s someone who has the reputation of being able to play well with others. Because while they initially may say they want to partner with you, if they have a history of being difficult, you could anticipate at some point in your partnership that there could be difficulties that arise. So, make sure that you’re choosing people who have a reputation of being nice to work with.
Who has a vested interest? And by that we mean, not just verbal interests but who’s willing to put some dollars or leverage some of their own resources. Are they willing to give you space that has a dollar value to you? Are they willing to give you staff time? Are they willing to share volunteers? Are they willing to share intellectual property? Are they willing to be a sponsor, or a donor, or participate in helping the project get off the ground? Who has that vested interest?
And then, who has the credibility? So, this goes right back to who has a history of success. Usually people that aren’t credible aren’t doing things successfully for long periods of time. So, who has the credibility of they’ve been doing it, and doing it well, and doing it in a way that other people want to partner with them.
And then once you get through that list, who then still has the desire to enter into a strategic and well-defined partnership, right? Not just, “Hey, will you help me with this?” But, “Hey, will you help me with this in some very specific ways?” And that’s what we’re going to talk a little bit about next. I have been checking and I don’t see any questions in the Q&A section, but if you have any, now would be a good time to type them in and we’re going to keep on talking a little bit about another exercise that you can do with folks in your organization.
Marie: So, resource sharing is also you might hear the word prospecting is very similar. But if you are from a small community like Mandy and I, work with lots of communities here that are small. You probably feel like you walk into meetings and you just should change the title of the meeting every hour because the same people around the table. It may be your local, you know, PTA group and then it’s the next group, but it’s the same people all the time because the active community members are the ones kind of carrying the load.
It creates sometimes burnout, it creates a lot of different things, but if you can use that knowledge in the room to do a resource sharing exercise, it’s more productive for everyone. So, instead of sitting around the table and talking about these complex issues that probably won’t get solved today, or tomorrow, or even in the next couple years. Break down a few of the top needs, and I believe it’s on the website, if it not it will be up soon.
Mandy and I have a very simple needs list. It’s not just a needs list that saying, “Hey, we need this.” It says, “It’s translating the need into impact.” We need X number of tents of this brand to get 20 homeless families out from under the local bridge and into a warmer environment this winter. Share the impact not just the need. So, when you walk into a room and you say, “We need this, because of this, by this date,” others in the in the room might be able to say, “Hey, guess what? The local sports store or this local Boy Scout group is getting ready to upgrade their tents and they have X, Y, or Z.” You begin prospecting for those specifics on things.
So, I would encourage you to look at the needs list from a different perspective. Put two or three of those in a board in one of your upcoming board meetings or in one of your community meetings and go straight from there into prospecting and resource sharing.
So, I did this with a group that was looking at transportation for an after-school program, someone from the city happened to be there and said, “Hey, we can modify some of our routes. We can do X, Y, or Z. We can lower the cost.” So, putting it out there in front of people, not just the need but the impact that you will be able to create when that need is met, is a great way to share resources.
And I know that some questions are popping up, so we’re going to come to those here in just a second. So, we’re going to start. We’ve talked a little bit about and figuring out who should be around the table? Who could be around the table? And now, it’s time to start the conversations with these other organizations. It’s really easy to jump the gun and just have one staff member run over and say, “Hey, we’d love to partner with you and can we just do X, Y, or Z?” And while that sounds great in theory, you really want to make sure that the conversations are started well.
And one is a timely agenda, a specific agenda. So, when you consider a conversation, I would encourage you to maybe pick up the phone and call and say, “We would love to explore ways to engage or collaborate within our organizations. Could you get all the appropriate decision-makers that need to be in the room into a conversation so that we can explore this?”
Determine an agenda that works for both of you. It doesn’t need to be a random, “Hey, we want to talk about partnerships.” No, we have this particular thing that we would like to do. This is what we like to partner with you on. You might have other ways to contribute. But set an agenda, set a time, and make sure the decision-makers are there. All too many times program officers make these decisions and at the end of the day, it’s the executive director or someone else that has the final say. And when it comes time to get a grant agreement letter or something like that, they’ll say, “Hey, we can’t find that because we need to take this to our board or we need to take this to a different person.” And you might realize that you didn’t have those conversations with the right people begin with. So, start the conversation with the question, who is the decision maker that should be at the table?
Mandy: And I want to emphasize the part that Marie said about having an agenda, because this is one thing that drives me nuts. It drove me nuts when I was working in the nonprofit world. It drives me nuts now. People will call and say, “Hey, we just want to meet with you to pick your brain.” I’m like, no. I don’t have time for that. So, when I was working in the nonprofit world, everybody wanted to have meetings all the time. “Hey, let’s meet with so-and-so and talk to them about their program,” but why? What’s the purpose? What are we hoping to accomplish from that? You know, if it is a partnership, what does that look like? What would we like to get from them? What are we going to offer them in exchange? When would it start? What would they be responsible for? What would we be responsible for? And be able to actually call someone and say to them, “This is what we’re thinking about and this is why would you be interested in having this conversation.”
Because nothing is more frustrating than getting into a meeting where you’ve been blindsided because somebody says, they just want to talk about X. And then they throw something else out at you that you wouldn’t been interested in the first place. So, have an agenda, we do have some great questions coming in, so I want to go through the next questions to consider as you start this conversation and then Marie and I are going to tackle these last three questions that just came in because they look really good.
So, after you start the conversation, think about these questions. And Marie’s already hit on a couple of them, but we put them out here so you wouldn’t have to remember them all. What community needs or issues do the organizations share as a priority? Okay. If they don’t share a community need or issue as a priority, what makes them a potential good partnership? What are current and future projects or programs that could be made stronger by a collaboration?
What funding sources is each organization approaching? So, in that, I would also ask these sad questions. Should you be approaching them separately or should you maybe approach some of them together as a collaborative effort? And a lot of times we get into that conversation with people they’re like, “Oh, we want to be the ones that have the money.” You know, someone doesn’t want another organization applying for money because they feel like if they get the money, then they’re not going to share it with them or they’re not going to help pay for the program and they’re going to change things. So, you know, if you’re having that feeling that might not be set up to be a successful partnership, so having the conversations about what it looks like ahead of time is really helpful.
Rather than solicit funding for a project that includes the other organization as a mere line-item, will a joint proposal generate larger support? That’s a conversation to have with a program officer to foundation, right? You wouldn’t know that off the top of your head, talk to the program officer. And then can a memorandum of understanding which we also call it MOU, be drafted to clearly identify and shared priorities, resources, roles, responsibilities, and the timeframe that the organizations are going to collaborate? Yeah, there’s a typo there. So, those are some questions to consider as you think about collaborations partnerships.
And I’m going to look at Monty’s question, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to answer all of these in depth right now. But Monty’s question is, “Will you please talk about entering into a partnership or collaboration versus merging with another organization?”
Marie: So, the primary difference there is going to be the legality of it. Partnerships may or may not present actual legal liabilities or responsibilities. Memorandum of understanding for just that you’re saying, “We have an understanding. We have an agreement.” You’re putting it in writing so that everyone is clear on the roles and responsibilities. It’s kind of like one level less than a contract. If I tell you, we have a contract, then you’re going to take that pretty serious.
Memorandum of understanding, we’re saying we have an agreement where this kind of a gentlemen’s agreement. But when you go into a merger, you’re looking at a legal, two legal entities or two separate entities becoming one. So, I absolutely recommend that you have an attorney or someone present to help you with that process because you’re looking at filing paperwork, you’re looking at other conversations as well.
Mandy: I actually did this process with an organization this past year. And in the nonprofit world, it’s very different to have a “merger,” because the nonprofit entities have to have a specific mission statement. So, unless the organization has the same mission statement, and the IRS will allow you to become one organization, more often than not, you have to dissolve one organization and either adopt the mission of the other organization or form a new organization.
So, there’s also dealing with assets when you’re a nonprofit, have to be done very differently than if you’re a for-profit. So, you know, being a merger is not really . . . it’s really not the same in the nonprofit world. It’s the acquisition concept is not the same. So, if that’s something you’re considering, what I do see a lot is someone will have a fiscal agent because they don’t currently have their own tax ID number, and they decided to be under the umbrella of a nonprofit. And so, if that’s what you’re referring to that is very common. But actually merging two separate nonprofit entities into one is that different unless both of them dissolve and start a new nonprofit. So, good question.
Marie: And Monty, if you’re looking at and look for a fiscal agent versus an official merger, we have a blog on our website. And at some point Mandy will share where to access that, but it’s specifically on determining if you want the partner or secure fiscal, a fiscal sponsor.
Mandy: Suzanne asks, “Do you recommend bringing in consultants to work through the process of creating a partnership between two organizations? At what point is it advised and is there a basic fee for different services?” I would say, the easiest answer is I don’t know what’s a basic fee for that. I’m not sure that you would need it in most instances unless you were talking about some really significant partnerships that we’re going to affect the organization in a major way or long-term. Most of those things would be things you could handle internally. If you had more specific questions about that, you’re welcome to email us, [email protected] or [email protected] and we’ll see if you have more specific questions we could answer.
And then Rebecca says, “How deep of information-sharing do you recommend during the due diligence process?”
Marie: That’s a great question. There’s superficial level I would recommend that you do a search, obviously first thing there just to see the vibe, and the energy, and the type of marketing and messaging that the nonprofit does. So, if you get on the organization, you know, we Google the organization and the articles are all crisis oriented or, you know, maybe less than positive information in those articles, that might be a red flag. If you’re seeing lots of human interest stories, lots of press releases showing and reflecting great work and positive messaging, then you know that their public perception is probably pretty good.
The other thing is I mentioned TaxExemptWorld, you can see on there basic information, but you can access 990s of any nonprofit organization. It’s public record. If you go to a 990 of a nonprofit, you can see what their resources are. So, if you are going to be working with someone, you want to make sure, do they have the capacity to do this? Are they, you know, if they have low pay for all their employees or no pay, there’s a chance for higher turnover because people will be moving on to other jobs? What is their turnover rate? What is, you know, what is their operating budget? Do they have dollars for programs and projects?
If they’re heavily funded by grants, that’s not necessarily sustainable. So, what happens after their grants are funded? So, if I see a nonprofit who is more than 30% dependent on general operating grants, I’m concerned about their long-term viability. If I see that they have lots of diversified funding streams, they’re bringing in the dollars and they’re able to fulfill their mission, I feel more comfortable with that.
But say, you know, superficial media, look at the finances, look at the sustainability, and then out in the community, put out your feelers with credible groups, your local United Way, your Chamber of Commerce, and other community partners to partner with them and ask about their partnerships. So, if you were going to be partnering with the local YMCA and they listed specific community groups like Girls on the Run or X, Y or Z, go speak to those other partners and say, “I noticed you partner with this particular group. We’re considering that as well. What have been your experiences?” So, there’s lots of ways to do that due diligence without hiring a private investigator.
Once you feel comfortable, you’re going to want to move ahead with intentional partnerships, make those invitations very specific, “Hey, let’s talk. Let’s get together and let’s define commitment in roles because that’s going to be the very basics of a memorandum of understanding or memorandum of agreement, however you want to call it.
The first thing, we’ve already said this multiple times, but it’s important, interest. Just because someone has the skill set or the resource does not mean they’re interested and willing and able. So, make sure there’s the interest. And then beyond interest if there’s commitment. If there are others that you both are agreeing to share resources, that both of you have a capacity to commit to this partnership. If you’re barely making it to your own staff meetings, are you going to have time to connect with your community partner? And you need to make sure that, you know, is this time? Is there a specific timeframe for this partnership?
You don’t need never-ending partnerships or collaborations. You can say, “This is a one-year agreement and we’re going to review it, you know, 9 months in or 10 months in to see about renewal.” So, you don’t feel like you’re marrying a community partner every time you build a collaboration. But those that are working well certainly deserve consideration for renewal moving forward. So, look at those commitments and roles, and then we’re going to talk a little bit about kind of goal setting.
The goal setting is obviously one of the most important things. If you’ve not heard of SMART goals, I encourage you to write this down today. When you think of your goals, they need to be SMART which S is Specific, M is Measurable, A is Attainable, R Realistic or Relevant, and T is Timely. So, if I say, “I want to lose 5 pounds or 10 pounds.” You may say, “So what? Maybe I’m going to do that in the next 30 years. Is that of interest to you?” Probably not.
But if I say, “My goal is to lose five pounds between now and January 1st, you could say, “It’s specific, it’s measurable, I can weigh in and weigh out. It’s attainable, doctors say, it’s healthy to lose one to two pounds a week, we’ve got four weeks, so technically five pounds is very attainable.” And it’s timely because it’s something that’s coming up.
You want to use that kind of litmus test to make sure that the goals you are setting with your community partners qualify as SMART goals because people get unmotivated, they disengage when they feel like there’s never really a point of the partnership. So, for every partnership agreement that you have, you want to make sure that you have shared goals. So, it might be, for example, we partnered with a science center one time, we are going to engage 100 3rd graders in a particular program. It was going to be benefit the after-school program I worked with. It was also going to benefit the science center’s goal to engage minorities.
So, I was engaging in STEM. They were wanting to engage minorities. We had a shared goal that we were going to offer this activity. So, the goal might have been engaged 100-minority or Latino 3rd third graders in STEM programming to do X, Y, or Z. And the objective might have had, you know, would fall out under there.
So, this is a really nice little spreadsheet that you can use. It allows you to track your timelines, see who’s going to provide the resources. How you’re going to evaluate? How you’re going to share that? And who is going to be responsible? This nifty little spreadsheet is in a Word document and is available to you on our free stuff on the website.
Mandy: If you want that tracking tool right now, you can go to the link on this page and put in your name and email. We’ll just send it over to you. It’s in a Word document, so you can edit it as much as you want. We use it for all of our clients. We use it every time we’re writing grants for new programs or projects with clients. And it’s completely editable. You can use it to share and get other people to help fill out. Anyway, it’s a great tool. We’ve kind of tweaked and honed it over the years, so hopefully it will be something you can use. And again, you can go to the link right there on the page, fundingforgood.org/free-tracking-tool, and we’ll send that over to you right now.
Marie: All right. So, partnership spreadsheet, this is . . . you definitely want to be tracking your partnerships because as you write grants, and I see there’s a question here that’s popped up about grants. And as you go out and you do build credibility in your history of success and you share that with community, you want to make sure that there’s a record on file with your organization. So, as you experience staff and board turnover, there’s that historical knowledge.
There’s nothing worse than saying, “Hey, we’ve never partnered with this group,” only to find out that you did two years ago, but no one no one remembers. To create a partnership spreadsheet, the name of the organization, the description of their activities, which program or project they’re engaged in. The dates of those agreements, the contact person, the successes, and the resource sharing. These become really helpful when you’re writing grants, and you have to provide partnership agreement letters and you contact someone who’s new to the other organization. And they say, “I’d love to do a letter but it’s not going to have a lot of meat because I don’t really know what we did with you in the past.” You can say, “Hey, I’m going to provide you some bulleted points of some of our major joint successes and send that over to you so that your partnership agreement letter is kind of more bang for the buck there.”
Mandy: Betty asked if we could share a sample of a memorandum of understanding. And we have actually, we have a section on our website fundingforgood.org, that is free stuff. If you go to our website, fundingforgood.org in the very top, there’s a tab that says free stuff. Steven is probably familiar with it. Steven, I don’t know if you can go over to the website and just snag that URL and put it in for folks here in the chat box. But there are sample of memorandum of understanding in there, and they are in Word documents. So, you can pull them up, you can see them, you can see what needs to be included, you can change them and make them your own. But yeah, we do have those samples there, so, you can access those and use those as much as you need to.
And we’re get to . . . Yeah, the spreadsheet link is actually in this PDF, Susan, so when you get the PDF from Steven or if you’re looking at it online right now, it is slide number 30. And it’s this slide right here if you’re actually following us online, fundingforgood.org/free-tracking-tool, and then that will send it right over to you.
So, again, when you’re talking about partnership, respecting your partner’s must haves is really important. So, making sure that you are aware of what they need for the partnership to be successful and make sure you’re sharing what you need for the partnership to be successful. And then making sure that you’re throwing your partner a bone. If you had an opportunity to write someone into a grant to help them purchase something they need, do that. You never know when down the road that that’s going to come back and be helpful for you.
Hopefully someone will write you into a grant one day that helps you get a staff paid, or a piece of equipment that you need, or a program off the ground. We do that with people absolutely all the time and have been very successful with that over the years. So, take time and throw your partner bone anytime that you’re able to.
“The link did not work.” Of course it doesn’t because why would it today when we have a webinar. I will work on that when we get off the webinar. Oh, it’s working now. Candrina [SP] says it’s working now. Okay. Okay, so, great. Thank you, Beth. I have so many tech issues it’s not even, yeah. I have tech issues all the time, so things like that don’t surprise me but thank you for letting me know.
Okay, I’m going to let Marie talk to you a little bit about partnership agreements versus subcontract agreements, as we get towards the end of the presentation and we are still reading your questions. So, feel free to type any more in.
Marie: Sure. So, there’s going to different types of agreements and partnerships are the ones that are invested in your project. They might offer in-kind services. They might say, “Hey, we really are interested this. We’re going to do some reduced rates.” But those are the things when you’re having conversations, you’re outlining those memorandum of agreements.
So, typically in a partnership agreement, you’re going to see both sides are committing to specific tasks and specific outcomes, it’s a relationship there. There’s vested interest, you’re going to share the success as well. They may share with their organization, “Hey, we serve X number of pets or people.” Through this initiative you’re going to share the same thing. So, you’re both sharing that impact and credit.
In other situations you’re going to have a subcontractor. So, that would be someone that has a specialized skill that is needed to achieve one of your program or grant goals, whatever it might be. And those are typically more legal in nature. They’re obligations you kind of map out in a contract. So, for example, just like you would be building a house and you might have a contractor come in to build your house. Maybe that contractor doesn’t do electrical and plumbing, so they hire someone to come in.
You don’t have a relationship with the plumber or with the, you know, the electrician, you have a relationship with the original contractor that, so your partnership is with. But you know the task is getting done by someone quality. Same thing in your programs and your projects. You might choose to subcontract someone. You might be contracting a bookkeeper, you might be contracting someone there. Those are more service related, tasks related versus long-term partnership related.
So, you’re going to have a couple different things, we’re going to say, letters of support if you’re looking at letters of support from community partners. That is usually for a third-party saying, “Hey, we support this particular project. There’s a need for this in the community.” That’s usually what grants will ask for just to say, “Hey, you’ve requested money for a specific need, let us know that someone else in the community agrees there’s this need and that you guys are a great response to that need or you’re to provide a solution.”
That’s just your basic letter of support, but a partnership letter goes a little bit deeper than that. You’re confirming your partnership, so there’s five bullet points that go into the successful partnership letter. And that’s confirmation of partnership, “Yes, we’re in partnership. Here’s our history of success.” If you don’t have a history of success you can mention a point of success from each organization and say, “We’ve both been successful in our endeavors and we believe together we’re even stronger.”
Three, what is the community project in need use some data. Data is always very moving, but also if you have a particular story that ties it back into your organization and say, “Hey, poverty is real in our community. This is a situation a family came in just last week for X, Y, or Z.” Data and then a personal story.
Commitment to the project. What are the roles, the responsibilities and the resources that are going to shared? And then the closing assurance and contact information. If you are wanting a sample of that, once again, Mandy has already shared a link to free stuff. We have sample partnership letters as well as the Memorandum of Agreement under our free resources.
Subcontractor agreements will have similar components, but it might be specifically the cost of services. The difference between partnership and a subcontractor also comes down to who’s managing the project. So, if I tell a plumber that I need my bathroom plumbed, I’m not going to be standing over their shoulder saying, “And I want you to use this, this, and this.” I’m trusting that they’re going to be compliant with the law. They’re going to do it correctly.
In a partnership, you might outline more of the ethics and the responsibilities and the messaging and how you’re going to do things. So, there’s a little bit more of a connection there, but a subcontractor you tell them the result you want, what you’re going to pay for and that’s what you get.
You will see the requestor subcontract agreements in a lot of state and federal grants, but you also might just use them for your general operating in your organization. And these are all really important concepts. Memorandum of understanding and partnership letters, all of these are really helpful to leverage dollars, to leverage support whether it be through grants. Whether you’re going to local businesses and saying, “Hey, we are partnering with this person or we’re collaborating with them and would you be willing to support this?”
Because at the end of the day, people want to fund your impact not just your existence and if they know that you are playing nicely with others, and that they can get more bang for the buck, they’re going to be more willing to support. So, partner on fundraising and friend raising events and try to get positive referrals from each other.
There’s nothing worse than people who bicker if you’re from a community that has a lot of competition in your small nonprofits, years ago you had to prove to donors that you were most unique, that you were doing it better. And sometimes kind of prove that you do it betterment, you had to belittle your competitors. That is not what donors want to see anymore. They want to see how you’re doing it smarter, how you’re doing it in collaboration. So, don’t necessarily try to prove that you’re doing it better. Show what makes you unique and how you’re collaborating to make that impact possible.
Mandy: We had a question, “When collaborating with a young nonprofit, does the grant dollar percent change a bit? In other words, how long should it take for an organization to get below 30%?” Well, you should never be over 30%. So, unless it is specific to a program that, you know, these aren’t my favorite but sometimes there are federal grant programs that are 100% funded through a federal grant. Beyond that, you shouldn’t be dependent on grant funding.
If you started an organization, you should have a business plan which we call a strategic plan in the nonprofit world. You should have that plan for how you’re going to bring in revenue. And what you’re going to spend your dollars on? So, if you don’t have a budget and you don’t have a business plan on how you’re going to bring your dollars in, maybe starting a nonprofit isn’t the best thing because if you’re only starting on profit because you qualify for grant funding, that’s the wrong reason to start a nonprofit. That’s the wrong reason to start any business. That’s like saying you want to start a business because you know you qualify to take out a business loan at the bank. That’s not a really great reason to start a business.
Actually, we have a whole entire blog about that and it’s nonprofit is your tax ID status. It should not be your business model. So, if you’re in that situation or you think someone might be in that situation, there’s a lot of reasons they are there and it might be that they don’t really have the plans in place for the nonprofit to be successful.
So, I think that we’ve hit all the questions. Will the PowerPoint and recording be available to us? Yes. And I don’t see any other questions, but if you have questions, our website is fundingforgood.org and you’re welcome to email us, Mandy or Marie @fundingforgood.org, we both have the same structure for our email addresses. And I’m happy to take any more questions, but I’ll turn it back over to Steven and let him do his last few slides and ask us any questions you might have between now and the end of the webinar.
Steven: Yeah. That was awesome. Mandy and Marie, thank you both so much for hanging out with us for an hour and sharing all this knowledge. You really crammed a lot in there. That was some really good stuff. And thanks for taking questions along the way. So, yeah, we don’t have a lot of time left, but if there are any last-second questions obviously you guys got two experts here willing to at least help you with your problems. But I would definitely recommend that all of you check out fundingforgood.org, lots of really awesome resources there.
Maybe if you wouldn’t mind answering a question for me. You know, we’re recording this session in early December. Is there anything that you recommend to people that they do in these last few weeks of the year to maybe kind of get the next year off on the good foot, maybe specific seasonality type things?
Mandy: I mean, right now is when we tell everybody be doing their planning in preparation for next year. Actually, we sent out a blog today specifically talking about grant readiness and saying all the things you could do to get ready to be more successful next year by getting some documents together, getting all of your things updated whether it’s job descriptions or resumes. And it might not be a bad idea depending on your fiscal year, because you’re a January to December type organization to revisit the partnerships you currently have. See if there’s some viable for next year.
Maybe time to revisit potential partnerships for next year based on what you have coming up in your next fiscal year and starting some of those conversations now. You know, there’s a lot of fundraising that happens, it’s the largest giving month of the year and it’s when most people do make their gifts. So, I know there’s a lot of end of year campaigns, and direct mail, and holiday asks, and things going on right now. But if you were one of those organizations that has a little bit of downtime, I’d use December for planning as much as possible.
Steven: That’s cool. Yeah, it can be a little bit a busy time of year, but I see that folks start to slow down a little bit as we get close to the new the year. So, good advice. Well, man, this was awesome. This is a great session as expected. I expected nothing less, but yeah, Mandy and Marie, maybe have a last word. Where can folks get a hold of you? We’ll definitely get everyone the recording and the slides, but what should folks do right when they log off?
Mandy: Basically, if you just go to fundingforgood.org, I would say go to the free resources page. There’s just a ton of information there. And if you’re more of a visual person, if you go to the top of the page, we have a YouTube channel where we record tons of videos and release one a week every year. So, you can go in there and find lots of answers to questions. If you have a specific question you’d like us to address, we are happy to create a blog especially for you or a video. So, feel free to email us or post it on the Facebook page, and we’re happy to reply to those and create custom responses for you.
Steven: Awesome. Cool. Well, we’ll call it a day there since we’re so close to 2 o’clock hour. Thanks again to both of you and hope you stay safe in that upcoming mini blizzard you’re going to get.
Mandy: Right. Exactly.
Steven: But, yeah, we’ve got a great webinar coming up next week. Like I said, every single Thursday, so same time, same place, if you aren’t busy, join us. We’re going to talk about underinvesting, we’ve got the Better Business Bureau, Wise Giving Alliance, joining us. Going to be a really cool session with Anne and Art. So, check that one out.
We’ve got lots of sessions even scheduled into next year already, so check out our webinar page. You may find the session or a topic that it’s really applicable to what you got going on. We’d love to see you again on another session. But if not, look for an email from me later on today with the recording and the slides. I’ll get that to you in just a couple hours or so. And hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon. So, have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend, stay warm out there, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Mandy: Happy . . .