How Nonprofits Can Avoid Mismatched Partnerships

Mismatched partnerships happen. After working with nonprofits for over 10 years, I have identified a few trends as to why this occurs and how to avoid it.

For most nonprofits, finding the right partnerships in addition to raising funds is not only necessary for their success in providing much-needed services in the community, but essential for their future sustainability. Successful partnerships are created by those organizations who align each other with like missions and offer value that can be measured.

How do you measure the value being offered? The first step is defining what is valuable to your organization–brand exposure, credibility, increasing efficiency or cost savings. The best partnerships oftentimes are the ones that do not require expending excessive resources in order to see the benefit.

For example, nonprofits that are helping families find care for an elderly loved one are best partnered with others already aligned with this mission. That also includes the partnering with the for-profit community for resources other than grant awards and general organization support. An example could include a partnership with AARP. Brand credibility could be established as well as access to resources leading to brand exposure.

How do you determine if a partnership is a good fit? By defining your expectations, reviewing it on a quarterly basis with your team or partner and further expressing your needs to your partner.

Using AARP as an example, measuring your expectations and goals could be achieved by reaching a broader audience. Some metrics below could be used:

  • How many volunteers joined because they were referred by AARP?
  • How many cross-promotional events were achieved from this partnership?
  • What was the most beneficial gain from this partnership?
  • How did we help AARP with their mission?
  • How much is this costing us?

By considering metrics that align with your organization, you can easily qualify if the partnership was one that helped you in achieving your organization’s goals.

In 2016, the best partnerships could involve technology companies. Most technology companies are looking for people to use their technology or business to adopt it. As a non-profit, your mission may differ from the tech company, but their technology could provide an added value to the service of your organization. Example, if your organization were to partner with a technology company that offered Uber-like service, instead of having your caregivers drive perhaps time could be saved by instructing them to consider downloading Uber. This could represent a savings of your time, money and further open up opportunities for helping the seniors you serve.

In this scenario, the return can be quantified and valuable time saved by reaching out to your families in a new way. Since technology companies already have services built, partnering with them usually doesn’t involve much setup resulting in faster results. A resulting mismatched partnership may happen if too much time and money are invested into learning how to use a technology versus what items can be implemented easily.

Partnerships are built to benefit both parties. Most people understand that it cannot solely benefit one party over the other. By sharing the good story of your potential partner becomes a benefit to them. The return to you is their support of sharing yours in the community. Nonprofits like AARP may possess numerous opportunities for partnerships. Your role is to showcase to them something special about the work you do to enlist their support.

Back to the case of the technology company, you would need to identify what is important to them–perhaps it is getting product feedback or users or being listed as a resource. Understanding the business that your partner is in will give clarity to whether it aligns with your organization and the resulting partnership ultimately beneficial.