Now that Valentine's Day has passed, let's focus on a different type of relationship...the one your organization has with its potential grant partners. Funding agencies often request information on who your organization has collaborated with in the past, who you've completed projects for, or who you're talking with about potential upcoming projects. There has been renewed focus on building coalitions, regional efforts, and multi-partner projects to ensure that grant funds have maximum public impact. Grants for longer commitments or higher amounts are often possible for multi-agency proposals that foster collaborations among nonprofits and public entities, versus individual organizations.
So how can we foster organizational relationships? Here are a few ways:
1) Redefine your competition
When it comes to grants, there are few projects that need to be kept top-secret. At least yearly, write down the top 5-10 competitors in your region, and determine what they do well versus what you offer the world. Get clear on why they are your competitors versus project partners. Could you partner on an upcoming grant-ready project? Are there cross-promotional activities you could agree on? Are there areas of your businesses needing improvement that you could brainstorm solutions for?
2) Nurture your current partners
Remind your current project partners of your shared interests and/or goals. Grants become available for a range of activities, and typically don't have long lead times. If you've worked successfully with partner, continue to nurture that relationship by showing genuine interest in their organization. Is there still overlap in long-term interests? It won't come as a surprise if you end up calling about a potential grant activity if you've invested with your current partners.
3) Promote your organization as partnership-ready
Your organization's board members or senior leaders can help promote a willingness to partner by having ready successful partnership stories or fishing for partnership opportunities on specific projects. Make sure they're prepared with examples and real goals, not overwhelmed with wants and needs. Let them sing your organization's praises to help recruit the best partnership opportunities, and make sure to follow up with all leads.
Relationship building has become trendy, with classes, certificates, and training galore on individual networking techniques. Before "networking" there was "being nice," which includes being open for opportunities for relationships with not just individuals, but their organizations. Assess where your organization's relationships are today, and consider expanding or updating your "dating" circle.