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Operation: Collaboration!
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Collaborating among nonprofits can be a great way to maximize resources and ultimately deliver more benefit to stakeholders. Collaboration between nonprofits and businesses, however, is a bit different of a ballgame and can often secure additional social and monetary benefits to all parties involved.Business-nonprofit collaboration isn’t new, but it is becoming a hot tactic to multiply resources during challenging economic times. Using nonprofit assistance group Bassac’s Four Key Stages of Collaboration as our foundation, we’ve pulled together a few tips to get you moving in the right direction!Stage 1: Identify
This stage occurs before your nonprofit even approaches any possible businesses for collaboration. In the Identification Stage, nonprofits look within to determine whether a collaborative endeavor is a worthwhile investment of its time and resources. This is also when goals of the collaboration are identified and the nonprofit’s strategic environment is analyzed.

Consider tackling this stage with both your key staff members and stakeholders at the table. Hold a half-day session to answer the questions noted above, and discuss any potential benefits or downfalls. After the meeting, allow your team to absorb all information presented, then come back together in two weeks for a final conversation. In the meantime, send all meeting minutes out for review, along with a “reminder gift” to stay top-of-mind . Print the phrase “Working, together ” on a Desk or Laptop Calendar and circle the next meeting date for extra memory-boosting power!

Stage 2: Plan
Once your nonprofit has identified that a collaboration is the right fit, the real planning begins. In Stage 2, nonprofit organizations approach businesses they believe share similar missions and needs, and begin to hash out the details.

  • Although time is of the essence, rushing through Stage 2 can be detrimental to achieving shared goals of the collaboration. Take your time planning – it will be worth it.
  • Set aside time during this phase for members of your organization and the new business “partner” to get to know each other. Team members will work more effectively when they feel comfortable, and team-building exercises can go far. Try to work some prizes into each meeting – ones that make everyone feel like part of the same team. Small gifts like Buttons and Lanyards can promote your efforts and get all parties excited about the process.
  • During the Planning Stage, a formal legal agreement or contract should be drafted to cover both your nonprofit organization and the businesses that are part of the collaborative effort. Consult your attorney for legal advice.

Stage 3: Implement
This phase is about getting things done! Effective project management is crucial to implementation success, as well as consistently benchmarking progress against previously set goals. Keep communication at the forefront between your nonprofit, collaborating business and stakeholders with a monthly e-newsletter that recaps the effort’s successes. Collect e-mail addresses for the e-newsletter on your website’s home page and any other applicable areas in office. Entice prospects to enter with a drawing to win a perfect end-of-summer gift like an Outdoor Adventure Kit, a beautiful Wine Glass Set or even a monetary donation to their favorite charity (other than yours, of course!).

Stage 4: Review
Learning from the ups and downs of your collaboration is important to its continued success as well as the feasibility of future collaborative endeavors. After the partnership has reached its goals or its time has ended, convene all involved team members for a final wrap-up session. During the meeting, address any challenges faced as well as the collaboration’s main achievements. Finally, be sure to share your victories with your nonprofit’s key audiences to remind them of the value and benefits earned from a successful collaboration.

Nonprofit collaboration with businesses can be an effective way of capitalizing on mutual resources for the greater good. Just remember the four steps for success: Identify possibilities for collaboration, Plan for achieving goals, Implement your tactics and Review for the future, and you’ll be well on your way to completing Operation: Collaboration. Good luck!

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