The business world is all about competition — finding a place in your niche, surpassing competitors, earning a bigger share of the market, and capturing a faithful audience.
In the nonprofit world, instead, partnering with other nonprofits or businesses can mean getting in front of a bigger audience, raising much-needed funds to expand your mission, and reaching better outcomes. The right collaboration can infuse life into your nonprofit and enable you to do more for the people and causes that speak to your heart.
Successful organizations know it, which is why the world’s largest businesses and foundations alike work together in powerful campaigns that stir change in everything from health initiatives to gender equality movements, environmental efforts, and beyond.
Here’s how your nonprofit can benefit from partnering with others — and how to go about it for maximum impact.
The benefits of nonprofit partnerships
Perhaps the clearest benefit of partnering as a nonprofit is the ability to expand your reach by tapping into your partner’s audience. Reaching a broader audience means that you’re expanding your opportunities of attracting funds and volunteers, which, as you know, are vital for nonprofit success.
The added exposure also opens the door to educating and raising awareness about your cause by linking it to current trends and events. A good example is Starbucks’ What’s Your Name campaign, which raised awareness about the trans community’s journey of finding and adapting to a new name during their transition.
An additional benefit of partnering with other organizations (whether they are nonprofits or businesses) is that you can share expenses, talent and other resources for a more impactful campaign. Nonprofit budgets are tight, and depending on the origin and conditions of your funding, you may be limited to investing a certain percentage on administrative costs, with the majority of the money going to your programs. Sharing the administrative burden and logistics can make this easier and save much-needed funds for your programs. Some examples of split costs include office space, transportation, and staff training programs. Plus, sharing expenses may put you over the threshold for getting bulk prices or special discounts.
Selecting a potential partner for your nonprofit
As you’ll see in the examples below, the right partnership can give you visibility, connect you with passionate volunteers, and maximize your impact.
However, to reap all of these benefits, you’ll need the right partners.
First, it’s essential to align your purpose with your potential partner’s. You’ll want to learn more about their past activities, the causes they support, and any affiliations they have, like political or grassroots movements. This is especially important because any partnership must make sense for your and the other party’s supporters. Essentially, you don’t want to partner with an organization that funds a cause that opposes your values.
Second, you need clear expectations, which will set you up on the right foot from the start. The first step is to determine what you’re hoping to gain from the partnership, like increased exposure, funds, or support for a program or initiative. You’ll also need to define your commitment to this partnership and define how success will be measured.
Third, dive into the strategy. Once you’re aligned on the objectives of the partnership, it’s time to plan. Determine who will be involved in the project, the timelines, communication guidelines (including channels, turnaround, and points of contact), and execution.
Fourth, launch. Hit the ground running and share information in your networks. A nonprofit marketing plan, in conjunction with your partner’s marketing, will drive your campaign to success.
Fifth, evaluate. At the end of every campaign, you need to analyze what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve. Measure the results against the objectives you set for the partnership and evaluate its success through tangible metrics like donations, volunteers, signed petitions or sold products, to name a few.
3 examples of successful nonprofit partnerships
Many people don’t realize that TOMs is a for-profit company — a B Corporation, to be exact. The shoe giant has been partnering with local initiatives throughout their history, donating resources to organizations in support of multiple causes, like mental health, anti-racism, and environmental change.
The activewear brand has spent years devoting its resources to environmental causes, primarily carbon footprint reduction through recycling and clean manufacturing.
Similar to TOMs, Patagonia supports local grassroots organizations. They also match organizations and volunteers through their Patagonia Action Works program.
In addition to these initiatives, Patagonia donates 1% of its sales to environmental causes through 1% for the Planet.
Product Red is a private organization that partners with companies to create products that fund the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by supporting the Global Fund.
You may have seen these products as they’re created in partnership with the world’s largest brands, including Apple, Panasonic, Band-Aid, Durex, Jeep and Vespa.
In the years since its start, (RED) has driven more than $700 million for the Global Fund.
When nonprofits partner, everyone benefits
Partnerships can be a valuable resource for nonprofit organizations to advance their cause and expand their impact by collaborating with businesses and other nonprofits with shared values and missions.
However, they also need serious consideration and a lot of legwork before you can reap the benefits. If you’re considering partnering with another organization, get in touch with Trifecta Advising and together, we will devise a strategy that improves your odds of a successful collaboration.