How to Solidify Your Community Partnerships

Now that you’ve approached the groups and organizations that you targeted and entered into a relationship with them, what do they expect from you? What needs do they have that you can meet in order to solidify and build your partnership?


People are driven by values, feelings, and beliefs. They want to be acknowledged and validated. And they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Through involvement with your nonprofit, supporters also want assurance that they will be doing the right thing, that their efforts matter, that they will make a difference. Meet them were they are. Answer the questions “How will I contribute to the community good by supporting you? What part of being successful can I share? What will I get that is important to me if I give to you?” If you as a nonprofit professional can do that for them, they are more likely to be satisfied with your relationship and more likely to keep supporting you. Maybe even getting more involved. People tend to continue to invest in highly satisfying relationships. We talked in detail about individua donors’ motivations in Building Donor Relationships: Individuals.


Foundations are legally bound to the missions for which they exist. If they do not adhere to their legally stated purpose, they are at risk of losing their IRS status. The IRS also requires foundations to give out a certain amount of their corpus every year. That’s why the IRS requires foundations to make their tax returns, called 990s, available. So, the public knows what they give money to and how they give it out.

It’s important to remember that grants are legal contracts. Your organization is bound to perform by the terms described in the grant. Remember that foundations have legal obligations. And you’re the vehicle for fulfilling those obligations. That’s why it’s so important to communicate changes as soon as possible to funders. It’s not because they like being sticklers. It’s because they are held legally liable for their decisions. We discussed working with foundations in Building Donor Relationships: Foundations.


Businesses are interested in making a profit. Corporations are accountable to stockholders who demand they make money. Never forget businesses partner with others because they believe that relationship will result in higher profits. Even though they may have charitable motivations, and many do, resources are scarce to them too. They need to allocate resources just as wisely as you in order to do meet their goals.  We talked about presenting your agency as more than a worthy cause in Who Do You Think We Are?

F0r more information on building relationships with business see Building Donor Relationships: Corporations.

Government Representatives


Legislators are in office because of one thing: people’s votes put them there. And that is elected officials’ primary objective: getting enough votes to stay in office. If you as a nonprofit want to get the attention of an elected official, talk about what’s in the voters’ minds. What’s important to the community. We talked about getting community feedback in What Does the Community Really Think of Your Nonprofit?

Elected officials also need exposure. Do you offer any fundraising or networking events where they can speak to potential voters?  What about your communication channels with clients, staff, volunteers, donors, and partner agencies – can you leverage them? For more about working with legislators, see Building Donor Relationships: Government Funders.

 Government Staff 

The other needs and wants you must be aware of to be successful working with government are those of the employed staff. If go after government funding, the mission of your government-funded program is assumed to be the mission described in the legislation authorizing it. It is presumed that the legislation and the regulations surrounding it are approved by a majority of the voters through their opportunities for public comment. It is the job of the government employees to enforce the will of the people as stated in the legislation and regulations. Government employees aren’t in the game to get votes. They’re in the game to carry out the government funding according to the rules and regulations. It’s up to the government staffers to implement the program as mandated by law. 

Government employees are accountable to the elected officials. Usually as part of a huge bureaucracy where they probably don’t have much control. If you want to get along with a government employee, know all the rules and regulations and follow them. It will make the government employee’s life easier. For more information about working with government staff, see Building Donor Relationships: Government Funders.

 Wrapping It Up

In order to solidify a fledging partnership, meet your supporters’ needs. Individuals are driven by their values, feelings, and beliefs. Foundations have legal responsibilities to fulfill. Businesses operate to make profits. Elected officials need votes. Government employees ensure abidance to the law.

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