Partnerships can be a powerful tool in communities when they are designed to support everyone involved. Much like making a homemade pie, it takes preparation, time, and trust in the process. Here are some tips and considerations when designing partnerships to make sure everyone has a slice of the pie.
With Thanksgiving just over a week away, I find myself taking a few minutes to reflect on the nonprofits that provide services to those individuals in our community who need support. These organizations have diligently served our community through challenging times, some for many years. Their steadfast service and that of their talented staff, uplift our communities. While there are so many amazing organizations I could highlight, I am especially grateful for the following organizations…
I am a grant professional for whom the written word is a more comfortable form of communication than face-to-face communication. Once I understood the concepts and intent of grant proposal writing, I fell in love with it. The majority of my time is spent alone in my office writing or in one-on-one conversations with program, financial, and executive leadership staff. Given that my learning style is also visual text, reading RFPs, gathering the information needed, and conducting the research is all easy for me to understand.
Recently though, I have needed to be involved in meetings with program officers. These are not my favorite activity. Oh, I love hearing all the things funders have to say about their organization that help me better understand their mission. I also love to hear all the things about the program that my organizations say to the funder that I have not heard before in quite the same way. (Haven’t we all been here?) If my only task was to listen, these meetings would be easy, but these were conversations in which I was the lead for a significant portion of the conversation.
While I am all about spreading love to people and relationships, what about those connections you don’t love? As grant professionals, we deal with all different kinds of people – you know those people:
The program director who says, “I don’t even have the staff to carry out these program goals, but I need the money. So, just write whatever goals you think will get us the grant.”
The executive director who tells you “we don’t have a policy on diversity, equity, and inclusion; can’t you just write one for us?”
The new client who, when asked to share about their organization’s leadership team and strategies, says “you can find that on our website.”
Yep, I did not love navigating these relationships or at the very least, I do not love these conversations that seem to leave me feeling stuck and frustrated. So how do you learn how to accept and move these relationships and conversations along?
To kick off the month of love, we’d like to talk about relationships. In our personal lives, we know that nurturing relationships with our families, friends, and partners is important. Strong relationships provide mutual benefits; we give support to our loved ones as they make steps toward their personal goals, and we hope they do the same for us. As nonprofit leaders and grant professionals, we all know how crucial it is to build solid relationships in order to succeed in reaching our organizational goals, as well. We build relationships with our beneficiaries to make sure our program strategies match their strengths, needs, and solutions. And we build relationships with funders to ensure we have a strong financial foundation to continue offering those programs. Just as every relationship in our personal lives is unique, so are the approaches we must take with funders, depending on whether they are a foundation, corporation, or federal agency. So, let’s talk about the distinct “love language” and which approach to take in building relationships with each of the funders listed below.
It’s January. Are you ready for a reset? Better yet, is your grant strategy ready for a reset? I am just hunching here but with a year like 2020, I think the answer may be “yes” (and probably in many more ways than just grants)! There are many different tools and tactics to reset your grant strategy.
I’m not the type of person who sends out holiday cards. I want to be that type of person. I feel like I should be that type of person. After all, I love receiving them; the photos of our friends and family and their “year-in-review” recaps always bring a smile to my face. And I grew up with a mom who is great at sending holiday cards. I have vivid memories of her pulling out the notebook filled with addresses, often with amendments and notes penned neatly beside certain names. She’d carefully address and stuff envelopes with a card and letter detailing our family’s updates and accomplishments. By giving my brother and me some editorial power over our own paragraphs (so we could keep our very cool reputations intact) and soliciting our help with the envelope stuffing, she was giving us a primer in relationship maintenance.
While there are legal requirements for nonprofit organizations around transparency and disclosure of financial information, there can also be some grey areas where ethical decisions aren’t as clear. For instance, it can be tempting to apply for and accept funding anywhere you can get it. But what if you serve clients who are struggling with substance use, and a potential funder is known for contributing to the opioid crisis? If accepting money means you are straying from your mission, or if you have any doubt about the morality of doing business with a certain corporation, it may not be worth the financial benefit. Your goal should be to build funder relationships that you can stand behind and feel good about. Here, we are going to explore a few other ethical dilemmas you may run across when building relationships with funders.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about relationships. Perhaps it is all the talk of social distancing, self-quarantine, and isolation. As a seasoned grant professional working at my home office for more than ten years, I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever felt “alone.” One might wonder how I could feel lonely with my new “co-workers”; my once-quiet office is now interrupted by two kids, markers, paint, notepads, and maybe even yesterday’s fruit snacks stuck to my desk (don’t judge)! But I desperately miss face-to-face meetings with clients, board and committee meetings, and live trainings that provide valuable in-person adult time to connect and build or strengthen relationships.
When you say you are going to “partner,” what exactly does that mean? In today’s grant-seeking world, it’s not necessarily enough simply to say you will “partner” with XYZ organization to achieve your objectives. HOW exactly will you partner? Agreeing to put another organization’s flyers on your front desk is not the same as allocating time and effort for full-time staff to participate in a stakeholder coalition, in order to develop a charter for collaboration that conducts joint fundraising and has a mission extending beyond that of any of the individual agency partners.