In our previous blog post, we defined purpose-driven connections and examined why they’re so essential for the nonprofit sector. Purpose-driven connections are always focused on securing positive outcomes for communities, which means organizations have to incorporate feedback from a wide range of stakeholders and implement programs that are directly aligned with a community’s most pressing needs.
One of the reasons collaboration has become increasingly vital for nonprofits, grantors, and stakeholders is the multifaceted and interconnected nature of problems communities face. This means it’s necessary to get an array of perspectives on how to address social issues. Different organizations don’t just bring unique toolsets to the table, they also bring their own points of view, which are often informed by direct engagement with communities in need. In other words, as nonprofits and grantors build purpose-driven connections, they should prioritize diversity.
Working with marginalized communities
The nonprofit sector has a responsibility to focus on marginalized communities whose needs are often misunderstood or neglected. While there was increasing demand for services across the nonprofit sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that demand was especially high for organizations that serve historically disadvantaged communities.
This is no surprise considering the fact that these communities have suffered disproportionately from the effects of the pandemic. To take one stark example: according to data from the CDC, black and Hispanic Americans are much more likely to face hospitalization or death from a COVID-19 infection than the general population. This is a direct consequence of deep-rooted inequalities in access to healthcare, economic opportunities, and many other issues that have kept vast groups of people on the margins. The sheer scale of these problems makes collaboration a central imperative in the nonprofit sector.
Nonprofits should emphasize representation
One of the best ways to build community trust (which is crucial for establishing purpose-driven connections) is through representation, but this is an area where the nonprofit sector faces significant obstacles. According to a recent report by the Bridgespan Group and Echoing Green, black-led nonprofits receive less unrestricted funding (as well as less overall support) than organizations run by white leaders.
When organizations receive unrestricted funding (or more flexible funding, such as capacity-building grants alongside general operating support), 82 percent say it’s very or extremely helpful. Unrestricted funds can help nonprofits build internal capacities around fundraising, communication, logistics, and many other areas, which is why the racial disparity in the provision of these funds is troubling.
Building stakeholder support
Beyond increasing representation and allocating resources to communities where they’re needed most, purpose-driven connections should be directed toward generating stakeholder buy-in around programs and services. Nonprofits and grantors have to earn the trust of the communities they work with, and this means forging relationships with key stakeholders on the ground and ensuring alignment across values, goals, and strategies.
In the best scenarios, community members are embedded in and helping to lead the nonprofits serving their communities, and they also have a seat at the table with the funders. This could mean they’re included on advisory boards, participating in capacity-building programs run or supported by funders, or managing their own funding mechanisms, such as Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth Project.
As we noted in a previous blog post, one of the best examples of purpose-driven connections in action is the work being done by Liberty Hill in Los Angeles. By building a network of partners ranging from activist groups to nonprofits to grantors, Liberty Hill serves as a powerful catalyst for social change in and around L.A. When organizations focus on addressing the gravest inequalities in our society, promoting diversity and representation, and establishing trust with the communities they serve, they’ll be using purpose-driven connections to scale impact more effectively than ever before.
This blog post is the second of a three-part series about the importance of purpose-driven connections. Stay tuned for next week’s article: Making the most of purpose-driven connections