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Is your NFP partnership ready?

Posted on the 10/11/16 by purposeful
Not For Profit, Third Sector Magazine

In an environment of increased funding pressures, greater competition and regulation, not for profits (NFPs) must be able to collaborate effectively to mutual advantage. Partnerships are a great vehicle for collaboration and can enable NFPs to combine areas of strength for a shared purpose and set of outcomes.

However, before jumping into partnerships at the first sight of apparent gain, NFPs must take the necessary steps to ensure they are partnership ready and can mutually benefit. Partnership readiness requires NFPs to have a clear purpose, collaborative capacity and a demonstrated impact.

Clear purpose

Without a clearly articulated purpose it is impossible for any potential collaborative partners to develop an idea of a shared purpose and outcomes. A purpose statement should reveal your reason for existence, the problem you are trying to solve and how this contributes to a better society.

Beyond Blue do a great job of concisely outlining their purpose on their homepage as follows:

‘3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety… beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.’

Where NFPs have a clear purpose, there is a much stronger platform to embark on collaboration with other NFPs, social enterprise, private sector and government. This is because potential partners can immediately understand your mission, values and approach to problem solving.

This instils confidence in potential partners that you have common values, a shared purpose and could work together.

Collaborative capacity

The recent AICD NFP Governance and Performance Study 2016 highlighted collaboration as a key area that can boost NFP performance.

However, the ability to collaborate doesn’t just occur naturally in all organisations. It’s a unique skill and capability that must be nurtured or purposely brought into the fold. Key components of collaborative capacity include: strong interpersonal and relationship building skills, communication skills, a strategic outlook and an ability to identify and harness emerging opportunities.

Demonstrated impact

Reporting on impact is critical in attracting the right partners for collaboration. Given the strong cross sectoral focus on outcomes, NFPs that can effectively demonstrate their social and environmental impact will put themselves in a strong position to attract partnerships and related opportunities.

The recent ACNC 2015 report ‘Public Trust and Confidence in Australian Charities’ revealed that donors placed a significant emphasis on the impact of the charity they donated to and still felt that more information could be provided on this.

A recent Philanthropy Australia paper on impact and measurement suggested that the trend toward accountability, called for stronger impact reporting particularly around questions such as:

  • Why should people give us their money?
  • How much impact are we having?
  • Is there someone doing it better?
  • How can we improve for the benefit of our stakeholders?

Getting the balance right between storytelling from stakeholder perspectives and hard data on outputs can be challenging. Ultimately NFPs must report in a way that best captures the overall impact of their service offering. Having accessible information on how you measure impact, your inputs, outputs and results annually is to be encouraged.

This post first appeared on Third Sector’s blog page on 7 October 2016.

Mike Davis is Founding Director of Purposeful, a purpose driven advisory, helping organisations to improve their social impact, culture, systems and strategic planning. Connect with Mike at mike@purposeful.com.au and visit the website atpurposeful.com.au.

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