Nontraditional Partnerships for Not-for-Profits: What to Consider Before Signing On

Posted by Lucas LaChance, CPA, CIA, Partner of Practice Growth on Feb 10, 2020
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Reductions in state and federal budgets have prompted many not-for-profit (NFP)  organizations to find new ways to achieve their mission by seeking nontraditional partnerships with businesses and even other NFPs. Health care systems operating in the NFP industry have led the way by entering into partnerships with businesses to co-brand pharmacies, provide direct services for businesses’ employees, and to develop new technology and apps.

Nontraditional partnerships focus on overlapping client and constituent needs and extend beyond the normal relationships that an NFP traditionally has established. For example, a housing agency may partner with a health care organization to provide stable housing options and reduce the number of readmissions and emergency room visits among low-income populations.

No matter the size of your NFP, entering into nontraditional partnerships with other not-for-profits, for-profit businesses, foundations, and educational and research institutions can provide great social and economic benefits.

When considering whether your NFP should enter into such a partnership, keep the following considerations in mind.

How will the partnership serve your mission and impact the greater good?

 Finding organizations with similar goals and priorities to your not-for-profit is the first step. You know your organization’s mission and your constituents: how can they be better served? Make a list of different ways to address their needs and then consider which organizations may fit as potential partners. Take a creative approach to your mission and look for opportunities to team up to address the needs of those you serve.

How will your NFP benefit from the partnership?

 Nontraditional partnerships bring new resources, approaches, and increased publicity to your cause. For example, a charity that provides backpacks and school supplies to children gains greater exposure by teaming with a local television station. The increased publicity makes more people aware of the NFP’s mission and the need to help children in the community start the school year with adequate supplies. The community gains greater awareness of this issue and more people become engaged in helping the charity’s constituents.

Where can you find potential partners?

 Potential partners are everywhere—it just depends on what you want to accomplish and which organizations can best provide the skills and resources you need. Before reaching out to a business or another NFP, do your homework. Read up on the organization, check out its website, and talk to people who work there. Gain a clear understanding of the organization’s objectives, priorities, and how they intersect with your own mission. From there, you can develop your approach to show how partnering together can achieve shared goals.

What is your NFP bringing to the table?

 Even if your NFP is small, many businesses, educational institutions, and research centers can gain from a partnership with your organization. You are addressing a social need, and businesses can bring operational processes and approaches to the issues that your NFP spotlights. Your not-for-profit can provide opportunities to demonstrate social responsibility as well as engage employees and improve morale and retention, a critical factor among younger members of the workforce. Educational and research institutions can team with your NFP to gather data, apply new approaches, and have real-world experiences. In one instance, MBA students partnered with a local Habitat for Humanity chapter to apply supply chain principles to Habitat’s ReStore, its home improvement store and donation center.

What are the long-term benefits of nontraditional partnerships?

Working with organizations outside your normal scope brings new ideas, approaches, and contacts. You’ll gain a different perspective on the issues you face every day and have the opportunity to access new thinking, technology, techniques, and a wider range of skills and experience. You’ll also have access to a new group of donors, volunteers, community leaders, and potential board members who will help you achieve your mission.


Want more information about how a nontraditional partnership can benefit your not-for-profit? Drop us a line now.

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Topics: Not-for-Profit, Nontraditional Partnerships

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