Collaborative Fundraising – 3 Questions to Ask Before Partnering Up

We all know that funders love collaboration. They believe it makes sense when nonprofits work together and leverage their strengths to accomplish something neither organization could achieve on its own. A natural offshoot of collaborative work between two or more organizations is collaborative fundraising, most often for the program that is the focus of the partnership.

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But just as collaboration can be challenging, so can collaborative fundraising. Navigating the pitfalls and questions that arise along the way often turns out to be more than development officers expect.

If you’re considering embarking on a fundraising partnership with another nonprofit—and it will be a GREAT learning experience, if nothing else—take the time to answer these 3 key questions before you enter any formal agreements.

1. What is your partner organization’s reputation in the community and do you want to be associated with it?

Because you will be.

For better or worse, the names of your two organizations will be often mentioned in the same sentence. Choose your partner wisely and your collective momentum will propel you both to new heights. Choose a weaker partner that brings along a problematic reputation or issues with staffing, management or other challenges, and all of a sudden their problems become your problems.

2. What is the added value contributed by each organization?

Are each organization’s contributions fairly equal or is someone riding someone else’s coattails? Is your potential partner a nonprofit you know well enough to have a sense of their strengths and weaknesses?

The value-add of each partner is the most difficult factor to assess at the start of any partnership. It’s nearly impossible to judge at the outset for an organization you don’t know well. Most successful joint fundraising projects I’ve seen involve organizations that already know each other well—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and have learned to navigate them all.

3. How will the work be divided?

Will each organization pull equal weight or are you agreeing at the outset to a disproportionate relationship? Does each organization possess the staffing capacity and skills to handle its fair share of the work?

Write down the tasks to be accomplished, a timeline and who will be responsible for what. Is the division agreeable to both parties? If you’re embarking on a large campaign, a more formal joint fundraising agreement might be necessary.

Have you had success fundraising with other organizations? Any headaches? Please share about it in the Comments box below.

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