Advancing Nonprofit Capacity

Partnership Boards: Effective Vehicles for Advancing Your Mission

Thanks to Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions, for today’s blog.

I’ve recently been helping a non-profit organization that wisely decided to form regional partnership boards to strengthen awareness and support for their mission.  It has given me ample opportunity to reflect on the characteristics of effective partnership boards and when they make the most sense for an organization to consider implementing such a strategy.

A partnership board is a group of organizational supporters from a region where your organization is active.  The primary purposes of such a board are to enhance awareness of your work in the region and to strengthen your capacity for fundraising in the community.  It is not a governing board, and it does not take the place of a board of directors or trustees.

Partnership Boards may be right for your organization if you are trying to build support in different regions of the country or different communities in an urban area.  Think of them as similar to the regional alumni organizations that are hosted by national universities.  At first the gatherings can be primarily social occasions, designed to bring people together to hear from organizational leaders about new developments in the region, and to learn of the impact you have or hope to have on people who live there.  Every such occasion should include a menu of “asks:”  to donate, to become more involved, to identify others who should be included in future events.

When recruiting for such a board, you will want to identify key individuals who are leaders in the community, who have a passion for your mission, and who are willing to commit to helping you strengthen your efforts in the region.  You will want some philanthropists on the board, but more importantly, you’ll need to identify those who want to see your organization have a greater impact in the local community.  Ask yourself the question:  who are the people who can help us get the job done in this community?  These are the people you will want to invite to serve on your partnership board!

A partnership board can provide valuable advice and counsel to your organization without demanding a lot of time from its members.  Since you may have several such boards in different regions, you’ll want to plan for them to meet just twice a year.  Between meetings, you can keep members informed of the assistance you need in a given region, but you can also hold up examples of effective support in each region that will inspire other regions to do the same.

Partnership boards can be excellent proving grounds for building your board of trustees.  Those who excel at advancing your mission at the regional level can be asked to make the greater commitment to joining your board.

Fundraising is seldom about radically new ideas; it’s always about the old idea that your mission needs support!  Partnership Boards may help you achieve that support at the local level.

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