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Op-Ed: How Nonprofits Can Capitalize on Strategic Partnerships for Resource Development and Long-term Sustainability

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Nonprofit organizations are continuously challenged with limited resources and highly competitive funding opportunities for program sustainability and growth. Courtesy Image for illustration purposes
Nonprofit organizations are continuously challenged with limited resources and highly competitive funding opportunities for program sustainability and growth. Courtesy Image for illustration purposes

Texas Border Business

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By Felida Villarreal

Nonprofit organizations are continuously challenged with limited resources and highly competitive funding opportunities for program sustainability and growth. However, in my experience, nonprofits frequently overlook the great value of community support and strategic partnerships in alignment with a nonprofit’s mission to leverage additional funding. The impact and outcomes of one nonprofit organization are limited. Still, the impact and results of a collective network of partnerships sharing the same vision are exponential and can garner interest from state and national funders. 

Validating Your Purpose

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Nonprofits who count on a solid support system from their community have a trajectory of connecting with their residents and leadership. Although you may be passionate about your program’s work, it is crucial to establish a clear understanding of the dire need for your program’s existence and the problem it seeks to address. In addition, your nonprofit program must identify key performance indicators and metrics that measure the program’s impact and outcomes regularly, validating the program’s purpose. Once a nonprofit has precisely developed a mission-driven program that responds to an existing problem prominent within a community and implements processes to measure the program’s impact, community support follows because all of a sudden, a program becomes validated through data. Community support will lead nonprofits to numerous opportunities for making industry-wide connections that align with the program’s mission.  

Value of Partnerships

Leading a nonprofit committed to workforce development, I have prioritized creating new partnerships and strengthening existing ones with stakeholders who are invested in this scope of work. During this process, I have connected with institutions of higher learning, community-based organizations, public school districts, economic development corporations, the Texas Workforce Commission, private foundations, industry leaders, legislators, public officials, and more. Seeking these professional relationships will help you identify and address the existing gaps within an ecosystem or network to strengthen your organizational mission’s impact, relevance, and value. 

A network of 20+ entities carries more weight than one single entity– that is the key. I have found that to improve a nonprofit’s competitiveness and visibility on a statewide or nationwide level. Collaborating with cross-sector partners who complement your mission would be best. While recently working on a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor focused on nursing pathways, the nonprofit I lead, Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) pursued formal commitments and memorandums of understanding from three regional college institutions, twelve area hospitals, two workforce development boards, and various worker-centered organizations. Building this strong healthcare alliance for a workforce development initiative allowed us to secure a $3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, being the only one in Texas and only one of 25 organizations nationwide to receive this award. Community support and partnerships are the biggest allies to advance any nonprofit’s mission. 

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Maintaining Relevance

Evolving partnerships and innovative collaborations maintain a nonprofit relevant in its scope of work and the shared resources from these partnerships facilitate a greater impact. The advantage of cultivating community cross-sector partnerships from government entities to private corporations is that it gives nonprofits an opportunity to seek and implement systems that connect these entities through a shared goal or vision for long-term sustainability. 

In my current role, I have leveraged corporate partnerships as a supplemental resource for serving our client-base ranging from professional mentorship to financial literacy and more, being provided by subject matter experts from corporate structures with a shared interest in giving back to its communities. For example, who is better equipped to lead a financial literacy initiative in the community than a financial institution or who is better to provide mentoring or employment outlook on healthcare career pathways than a hospital system? 

Moreover, larger institutional systems or networks have greater access to funding opportunities, rather than compete with them, connect with them, and collaborate with them. In my current nonprofit work, I have connected with institutions of higher education that prioritize partnerships and sub-awards for many of their grant proposals, recognizing the value and credibility of community-based, nonprofit organizations. Furthermore, you will be amazed at how many corporations and larger-scale institutions have the potential to support and/or fund a nonprofit’s program through their philanthropic initiatives or corporate-sponsored foundations. Go out into your community and identify stakeholders with a shared interest in your nonprofit’s mission to start building your grant portfolio. 

Felida Villarreal, VIDA’s President & CEO, is the author of this editorial discussing “How Nonprofits Can Capitalize on Strategic Partnerships for Resource Development and Long-term Sustainability. Texas Border Business offers free of charge space as a service to our communities.

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