Is Your Nonprofit Marriage Material?

By Vanessa Wakeman

In life, relationships are everything. In business, they are the foundation for your organizational growth and can also cause a major downward spiral if not properly nurtured and cultivated. Sometimes when speaking with a few of my nonprofit colleagues their eyes seem to glaze over when I turn the conversation to how they measure up as a partner to their corporate supporters. Yes, everyone should give because social change is what will advance the world. But, in a culture where numbers and measurements mean everything, you must have proof that the relationship is working.

What if companies could identify a nonprofit by their relationship status? Using a few of Facebook’s statuses as a guide, I’ve come up with 5 categories of nonprofits. If a potential partner had a chance to view your relationship status using one of the statuses below, which one would you fit into?

nonprofit_fluffMarried. The married organization treats every partner like a soul mate. They understand your mission and you understand what matters to them. You allow them to have a seat at the table in a meaningful way that allows them to share their financial, intellectual and social capital to benefit your organization’s cause as it correlates to the mission of their business.

Engaged. The engaged organization does everything during the courting stage, sells the organization on the benefit of working together, talks about creating a meaningful relationship, assures them that the numbers are there and that there is really synergy. The for-profit organization or donor comes on board, makes an investment in the organization and then doesn’t receive the same type of attention throughout the relationship. Don’t expect these supporters to stay around long, if you’re not giving them the attention they need to transition from engaged to married; chances are they will soon propose to another organization.

Separated. Those organizations falling into the Separated category don’t quite know how to manage multiple partnerships. They can sometimes start out as married but the relationship decays once they start to develop multiple partnerships, they can drop some of their initial support and stop making their partner feel important.

It’s Complicated. The naïve, sometimes narcissistic organization that says “It’s all about us” is typically quick to lose its partners and find themselves in complicated, unclear murky relationship waters. Yes, you’re doing good work, but in order to attract and sustain partnerships there has to be some mutual benefits and synergy. Evaluate what you can offer to partners but think of it in terms of what you know about their business and what would be beneficial to them.

The single type misses the boat because they don’t take the time to find the partner that is best suited for them. Instead, they think big but not strategic and spend time attempting to fill their dance card with potential suitors that are a mismatch for the organization.

In the social media realm relationship statuses change quickly. When it comes to companies measuring their ROI and value of a partnership, we should understand that if we’re not measuring up we can go from married to divorced on a dime. Nurture your relationships and get to know your partners so that they’ll be able to say they’re happily married to your organization.