One of the most valuable lessons I learned while working in substance abuse prevention is that good prevention programs can’t operate in silos. What that means is you can’t work alone. You need others to be successful.
Yet, I’ve too often encountered nonprofit leaders who don’t want to work with other organizations. They don’t usually say that, but their actions do. This lack of cooperation becomes extremely detrimental when they pursue grant funding. Funders want you to play nice with others. The technical term they use is to “collaborate.” Every request for proposal you read will ask you to describe your community partners.
Community partnerships take on various forms. The most common form is the use of volunteers. They’re primarily used for programmatic and administrative purposes. Helping kids with homework, setting up for events, making calls, answering phones, making copies, etc.
Volunteers also function in more official capacities like serving on boards of directors. Unlike most for-profit corporations, nonprofit organization’s board of directors are comprised of volunteers. However, these roles require a greater depth of expertise and credentials.
You should also consider going a step further to form steering committees and advisory boards. These can work in conjunction with your board of directors. Many board of directors are for governing purposes, but advisory boards can help set guidelines for programmatic activities.
As the CEO or Executive Director of your nonprofit organization you want to set yourself up for success. There is no better way to do that than by recruiting the right people to help you.
Here are some suggestions to help you do this effectively:
- Set some goals. What are three to five key things you need to accomplish with the organization. Think big picture. Consider the long-term, not just immediate needs.
- Determine the expertise necessary to accomplish those goals. Who are the experts in your field that you will need to accomplish your goals?
- Identify key sectors that need to be involved. Which stakeholders must be at the table? (i.e. schools, law enforcement, churches, parents, etc.)
- Develop a recruitment strategy. Check your sphere of influence. What people do you know that can help attract the people needed from each sector?
- Articulate what’s in it for them. It could be a big picture appeal or an individual appeal. Some people care about service and making a difference, others are motivated by personal agendas. Find out what those reasons are for each person you approach.
- Set the expectations. Knowing what they will be asked to do and for how long will facilitate the decision-making process for them. Most people are already over committed to projects, so their time is valuable. Show the value of your program/organization.
Most people won’t pass up the opportunity to get involved in something worthwhile and that will yield a positive return. Your job is to make sure you demonstrate why your project is worthwhile. Give them a reason to want to help you.
Remember, when it comes to making an impact at the community level, it really does take a village.