Nonprofit Collaboration Models and the Impact of Technology
While nonprofit organizations play a vital role in their communities, they don’t always have the resources to do all the work they want to do. Advancements in technology have given nonprofits new ways to partner with corporations and other nonprofits to expand their reach and achieve greater overall impact. New collaboration models have emerged that allowed nonprofits to do more with less, essentially stretching their resources to greater lengths than what’s been possible in the past.
With the help of technology, nonprofits no longer have to operate in a vacuum. Today, collaboration is not only possible, but it’s also common and mutually beneficial. Nonprofit collaboration models can be a great way to increase brand awareness, especially during challenging times.
Nonprofit Collaboration Models Take a Variety of Forms
The quest to reach more donors and create brand awareness is a continual process for nonprofits of every kind. Startups and corporations have led the way with establishing collaboration models, and profits can benefit from following their lead as well.
Fortunately, there’s no one size fits all approach to nonprofit collaboration. Collaborations may be formal or informal, project-based, or time-limited.
Content sharing is a popular and easy way to collaborate with other organizations. Almost every organization has a website, and it’s common to offer blogs as a means of digital marketing and website optimization. Swapping content is an effective form of collaboration because every organization has a different audience, and it allows both organizations to expand their outreach.
Nonprofit collaboration models can also take various other forms including:
- Decentralizing fundraising
- Shared research and reports
- Benchmarking studies
- Coalitions that address community needs
- Coordination of program service delivery
- Joining together for learning opportunities such as webinars, conferences, and other cross-promotional events
At first glance, it makes sense that nonprofits would benefit most from collaborating with other organizations that are interested in the same social problems. However, nonprofits can also benefit from collaborations with organizations that have a very different mission than their own. For example, AICPA highlights this concept in a guest post about a nonprofit collaboration between Harlem’s Children Zone and other community organizations.
Harlem’s Children Zone established a nonprofit collaboration model by working with community partners including tenant associations, social service agencies, and healthcare providers. The goal of collaborating with other organizations was to establish a comprehensive continuum of services to help poverty-stricken youth succeed and break the cycle of poverty. Harlem’s Children Zone also collaborates with community representatives, policymakers, and funding agencies by hosting workshops to encourage collaboration. The model has been so successful that it’s been replicated in other cities nationally, and it has inspired a new initiative called Promise Neighborhoods.
Another model that’s become popular with nonprofits is to use collaboration to decentralize fundraising efforts. For example, rather than rely on a single major fundraising event such as a gala, many nonprofits are choosing to diversify their fundraising efforts using a collaborative model. Some of the creative ideas that nonprofits are using include:
- Asking participants to raise a certain amount to attend an event
- Giving event attendees opportunities to fundraise in addition to registration fees
- Hosting individual and team fundraising competitions during fundraising campaigns
- Providing easy ways to donate online on the organization’s website
While events are viable ways for organizations to collaborate with each other, technology also plays a big role in cross-promotional opportunities. In addition to cross-promoting on websites of partners, social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest provide a wide variety of options for organizations to cross-promote each other.
The Role of Influencers on Nonprofit Collaboration Models
In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of social media influencers. Social media influencers are people who are known for sharing their knowledge and expertise in specific areas. Influencers attract followers by writing blog posts, creating videos, and sharing content on various social media platforms. The categories of influencers are virtually limitless. Nonprofits can easily partner with celebrities, industry experts, or anyone that has an extremely large following.
With the creation of the internet and the emergence of multiple social media platforms, users have infinite choices over the types of content they choose to browse. While these advancements are advantageous to consumers, nonprofits that struggle with online visibility will have difficulty in reaching their target audiences. That’s where good relationships between influencers and nonprofits can really pay off.
Here’s how influencer marketing works. before choosing an influencer to partner with, it’s important for your nonprofit to ensure that the influencer’s branding and messaging coincides with your nonprofit’s mission and image. If you want your target audience to have trust in your nonprofit, they must have trust in the influencers that you partner with as well. Once you’ve selected a social media influencer to partner with, it’s common to set up a legal contract for the partnership. Next, social media influencers promote your nonprofit’s products or services using their preferred social media platforms. By virtue of a good collaboration, nonprofits can expand their outreach to new audiences that they couldn’t access otherwise.
In the interest of risk management, nonprofits need to be aware that collaborations carry an element of risk. If the influencers’ followers perceive the influencer’s social media platform or content as offensive or not in keeping with the nonprofit’s mission, it can have a serious negative effect on the nonprofit’s reputation. Essentially, it’s guilt by association.
While there are risks involved in various nonprofit collaboration models, there are risks involved in not using them. Competition for online visibility is fierce, particularly in the nonprofit space. Collaboration with other organizations and individuals gives nonprofits greater potential for growth than traditional models of increasing brand awareness. In the areas where your nonprofit lags behind, other nonprofits will likely be moving forward.
Your BoardEffect board management system provides a secure place where you can store your agreements with collaborative partners for safekeeping. It’s also a good place for creating templates for collaboration agreements for future collaborative efforts and all your other important board documents.