How Nonprofits Can Capitalize on Strategic Partnerships for Long-Term Sustainability
Nonprofit organizations are continuously challenged with limited resources and highly competitive funding opportunities for program sustainability and growth. However, in my experience, nonprofits often overlook the great value of community support and strategic partnerships, in alignment with a nonprofit’s mission, to leverage additional funding.
The impact and outcomes of one nonprofit organization is limited, but the impact and outcomes of a collective network of partnerships sharing the same vision is exponential and can garner interest from state and national level funders.
Validating Your Purpose
Nonprofits who count on a strong support system from their community have a trajectory of connecting with its residents and leadership. Although you may be passionate about your program’s work, it is crucial to establish a clear understanding of the dire need for your program’s existence and the problem it seeks to address. In addition, your nonprofit program must identify key performance indicators and metrics that measure the program’s impact and outcomes regularly, validating the program’s purpose.
Once a nonprofit has precisely developed a mission-driven program that responds to an existing problem prominent within a community and implements processes to measure the program’s impact, community support follows because all of a sudden, a program becomes validated through data. In turn, community support will lead nonprofits to numerous opportunities for making industry-wide connections that align with the program’s mission.
Leading a nonprofit committed to workforce development, I have prioritized creating new partnerships and strengthening existing ones with stakeholders who are invested in this scope of work. During this process, I have connected with institutions of higher learning, community-based organizations, public school districts, economic development corporations, private foundations, public officials, and more. Seeking these professional relationships will help you identify and address the existing gaps within an ecosystem or network to strengthen your impact, relevance and value of your mission.
A network of 20-plus entities carry more weight than one single entity by itself — that is the key. I have found that in order to improve a nonprofit’s competitiveness and visibility on a statewide or nationwide level, you must collaborate with cross-sector partners who complement your mission.
While recently working on a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor focused on nursing pathways, my nonprofit pursued formal commitments and memorandums of understanding from three regional college institutions, 12 area hospitals, two workforce development boards and various worker-centered organizations. Building this strong healthcare alliance for a workforce development initiative allowed us to secure this $3 million federal grant, being the only one in the state of Texas and only one of 25 organizations nationwide to receive this award. Community support and partnerships are the biggest ally to advance any nonprofit’s mission.
Evolving partnerships and innovative collaborations maintain a nonprofit relevant in its scope of work and the shared resources from these partnerships facilitate a greater impact. The advantage of cultivating community cross-sector partnerships from government entities to private corporations is that it gives nonprofits an opportunity to seek and implement systems that connect these entities through a shared goal or vision for long-term sustainability.
In my current role, I have leveraged corporate partnerships as a supplemental resource for serving our client base in areas from professional mentorship to financial literacy. These corporate structures’ subject matter experts have a shared interest in giving back to their communities. For example, who is better equipped to lead a financial literacy initiative in the community than a financial institution or who is better to provide mentoring or employment outlook on healthcare career pathways than a hospital system?
Moreover, larger institutional systems or networks have greater access to funding opportunities, rather than compete with them, connect and collaborate with them. I have connected with institutions of higher education who prioritize partnerships and sub-awards for many of their grant proposals, recognizing the value and credibility of community-based, nonprofit organizations.
Furthermore, you will be amazed at how many corporations and larger scale institutions have the potential to support and/or fund a nonprofit’s program through their philanthropic initiatives or corporate-sponsored foundations. Go out into your community and identify those stakeholders who have a shared interest in your nonprofit’s mission to start building your grant portfolio.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Felida Villarreal currently serves as the president and CEO of Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA), committed to higher education attainment and expanding accessibility to equitable education opportunities. She is also responsible for implementing and maintaining regional alliances for resource development and public funding in the educational nonprofit sector, ensuring fiscal integrity and compliance with all public and private grant funded requirements.
Prior to this role, Felida also served as VIDA’s deputy executive director and director of finance. In addition, she has nearly a decade of accounting and financial management experience in the private and public sector.
Felida is a Certified Public Accountant and an active licensee of the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy. She holds a master’s degree in accountancy from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from the University of Texas – Pan American.
She actively volunteers her time to promote community involvement, currently serving as a board director for local organization, City of Mercedes Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of the Fast Company executive board. She also currently serves in the Hidalgo County’s Prosperity Taskforce, an initiative to address the ongoing challenges of poverty and promote economic mobility through education.