Strength in Creating and Renewing Relationships
Yesterday I spoke of the economic downturn and its effect on the nonprofit sector. We are in tough economic times and nonprofits are being asked to do even more with a lot less. Today, I want to discuss the importance of collaboration and partnerships, and how each brings an opportunity to create and renew relationships, making organizations stronger and more sustainable to ensure they meet the needs of their constituents. Partnerships also allow organizations to leverage and save resources, helping funding dollars go further.
Since January is National and Michigan Mentoring Month, there is no better example of collaboration than the Metro Detroit Mentor Collaboration. The Metro Detroit Mentor Collaboration is a partnership of local mentoring organizations. The founders, The ART of Leadership Foundation, Mentor Connections – Jewish Family Service, Student Mentor Partners, Vista Maria and Winning Futures, along with Mentor Michigan, developed the partnership in 2003 and have since brought together 20 local mentoring programs. Initially, there was a hesitation about working together. The organizations saw one another as competitors rather than a resource to succeed and help reach their goals. However, as the organizations began to collaborate and work together, they realized the collaboration was vital to strengthen mentoring in Metro Detroit. They have centralized their recruitment and referral process which has made the mentor matching process significantly more successful. Before, when someone called a specific organization with interest in mentoring, but wasn’t the right fit for their programs, the service ended there. Now, the partnering organizations are able to refer individuals to another organization’s program that is an appropriate fit. The organizations also save money and staff time hosting one celebration for all the mentoring programs. In honor of “Thank Your Mentor Day” on January 22, the Mentor Collaboration will host the Mentor Celebration Gala to honor one mentor from each organization.
Michigan Nonprofit Association went through our own merger in 2007, with the ConnectMichigan Alliance. Our merger provided the opportunity to join the nonprofit and volunteer sectors to create a more powerful, effective and innovative support structure for nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and volunteer centers. It also created the nation’s single largest nonprofit association in terms of scope and budget.
Even with the successes of these mergers and partnerships, we know that we will not merge or partner our way out of our financial crisis. Still, with the current state of the economy, nonprofits need to rethink, re-assess and retool where they are both financially and in their missions. Are there organizations in your community or throughout the state doing similar work? How can you support one another? Are there relationships established currently that could be developed deeper to strengthen your organizations?