Updated: Sep 12
Common perception often suggests that bigger means better, when in fact many nonprofits can be just as successful—if not more so—by staying smaller and focused on what they’re good at. As the saying goes: “Do what you do best and partner for the rest.” Recent nonprofits we’ve worked with, such as Westside Baby, Friends of Youth, and FareStart are great examples.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that smaller organizations don’t still want to dream big. That’s especially, challenging, however when federal and local budgets are tighter than ever and the organizations have to think of ways to stay afloat and thrive. And that’s where nonprofit strategic partnerships can offer substantial benefits.
Toni Sarge, Public Affairs Manager of Westside Baby says "When we focus on being experts in the field of physical items for babies and children, it allows us to be the best at what we do and allows our partners to be the best at what they do. It benefits all members of the community In the long run when we collaborate efficiently.”
Cost-sharing and Program Enhancement
As reported in Forbes, Chicago Youth Centers faced a situation where they had to proactively identify ways to save money but also maintain the quality and consistency of their programs. So they partnered with Family Focus to share costs, strengthen each organization’s respective programs. By combining their respective focus areas—Family Focus serving newborns through age 3 and CYC from age 3 through their school years—they can help clients over a longer period of time.
Better together is more than just a catchphrase. Nonprofits like Westside Baby can fulfill their mission more fully through strategic nonprofit partnerships.
“When we create authentic relationships with other local organizations and community-based organizations, it gives us opportunities to connect to even more families and children through our partnerships, more than if we acted alone,” says Sarge. “When we consider the community first, we all benefit.”
In fact, a 2017 study showed diaper banks who partner with community agencies saw benefits to agencies by increasing communication with clients, retaining more clients in various key programs, and allowed them to connect clients to other services through conversations about basic needs items provided by the diaper bank.
Greater Geographic Reach
King County alone spans over 2,300 square miles; that’s a large amount of ground to cover for a small nonprofit. Organizations like Friends of Youth partner with nonprofits whose service distribution complements their own. “[It] allows us to maximize the amount of time we are spending providing direct care to clients versus driving all over the county. to maximize the amount of time they spend on direct client care,” said a spokesperson at Friends of Youth.
Exchange of Expertise
Additionally, partner agencies serve specific populations and may have specialized knowledge about working with youth in extended foster care, youth who identify as black or African American, or youth who primarily speak Spanish. Friends of Youth’s spokesperson added that working with partner agencies with those specialties allows them to refer clients to them to best meet a client’s need(s) and vice versa.
A partnership requires less accountability than subcontracting sometimes community partners are not following through and because it is a partnership versus subcontracting, there is little repercussion for them until an official funder comes in. Key factors to set up a partnership for success include according to the National Council of Nonprofits include:
Articulating joint goals and a rubric to regularly evaluate success
Build trust and understand each organization’s culture
Create a strong framework of communication and collaboration tools to work effectively
New ventures will involve risk and learnings along the way, but the effort can offer long-term payoff to those who benefit the most from nonprofits’ impactful work.
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