Strengthen Community Partnerships by Hitting the Bull’s-Eye
I was recently speaking in front of a number of nonprofit executives discussing the concept of community partnerships. I eventually asked an obvious question that was the elephant in the room: Do you have a strategic plan, operational plan, target markets or bull’s-eye target in mind to determine and strengthen community relationships? Sadly, 90 percent of the group wanted to improve their organizational relationship in their community, but had no game plan to accomplish this task. In fact, the group was great on general concepts, but weak on tasks to accomplish stated goals. In my experience this result is not unusual.
BusinessDictionary.com notes that a strategic plan is a broadly defined plan aimed at creating a desired future. An operational plan is a short-term, highly detailed plan formulated by management to achieve tactical objectives. A target market is a particular market segment of which a marketing campaign is focused. A bull’s-eye is the center of a target and an established reference point from which the position of an object can be referenced, according to Merriam-Webster.com.
When I discuss topics with nonprofit executives they seem to focus their attention on three- to five-year blocks of time. They know we live in a dynamic environment that will change over a short time span. Many executives, in theory, want to make progress now by generating new relationships, improving existing relationships and seeking new partnerships with an eye on resource acquisition to help greater numbers of people. That said, many executives have not created any simple steps to identify a process to enhance community partnerships.
A simple exercise consisting of three steps may help any nonprofit executive determine how to strengthen community relationships going forward:
Step 1: Write the name of your organization and mission on a board. Establish a list of resources you currently have and will need from community partners in the future to expand your reach in the community to provide greater levels of assistance to those in need. Determine through this process what community contacts you currently have and may need in the next three to five years. These entities could include government contacts, corporate sector support, various church involvement, United Way assistance, community foundation connections, family foundation contacts, other nonprofits, key community stakeholders, service clubs, organizations, associations, etc.
Step 2: Create a large bull’s-eye chart (A) with at least five rings. Each ring represents a degree of influence. Starting in the center ring, write down the target markets by your perception of current effectiveness. For example, if you have a great current relationship with the local United Way, place them in the center ring. If you have a good, but not great relationship with a major Kiwanis Club, they may be on the third ring. A community foundation might be on your second ring. A major corporate partner might be on the third ring. Once you place these names on the chart, you have your current starting point chart, which is a perception of community influence. This is where you are today with respect to relationships. Many executives have never taken the time to determine what organizations are important to them. This exercise is a great first step. This is your present bull’s-eye chart.
Step 3: Create another large bull’s-eye chart (B) with at least five rings. This is your future bull’s-eye chart. Place the same entities on chart A on the bull’s-eye chart B as to where you want these organizational relationships to actually be in three to five years. Both charts should look different as your challenge is to determine what relationships need to be moved to the center of the bull’s-eye over time and how these moves need to be made. You might ideally want a key nonprofit in the center ring, government entity on the second ring, key corporate partner on the third ring, etc. This is your ideal community relationship bull’s-eye chart. It will change over time. You will determine where you want organizational relationships to be within a specific period of time. These relationships should be made with resource development and partnerships in mind.
The goal of the bull’s-eye exercise is to determine what moves need to be made to go from bull’s-eye chart A to bull’s-eye chart B. Make an effort to meet with these contacts and find mutual ways to grow together going forward. You will be surprised how easy this will become over time. You must become relevant to them and to the community you serve. If you want total engagement and help by your board to open doors, pull out a blank bull’s-eye chart at a board meeting and let everyone engage in this exercise.
It is up to everyone to help you identify, engage and shape your current and future community relationships! You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.