The nonprofit sector is built on collaboration. Nonprofits forge relationships with community stakeholders, grantors, the private sector, and other organizations to scale impact as quickly and sustainably as possible. One way to think about the cultivation of these relationships is through the lens of purpose-driven connections: partnerships which bring stakeholders together around shared values and goals to accelerate social change.
Over the past several years, the nonprofit sector has increasingly oriented itself toward the biggest problems our society faces: racial inequality, environmental degradation, poverty, and so on. This has been a powerful reminder of how interconnected many social problems are – organizations working on seemingly disparate issues have discovered more and more ways to collaborate. This is why purpose-driven connections are only going to become more important, so let’s take a closer look at what they are and how grantors and nonprofits can create them.
#1 —What are purpose-driven connections?
Everything a nonprofit does should ultimately be focused on one goal: scaling impact as sustainably as possible. This goal is also at the heart of the relationships organizations have with grantors and stakeholders. There are several key components of purpose-driven connections: they have to be rigorously focused on impact, they have to involve key stakeholders that are representative of the communities nonprofits serve, and they should be built on a foundation of mutual trust and support.
Whether a nonprofit is directly responsible for the administration of programs in a community or whether it serves as a convener and facilitator, the questions should always be: What are we trying to achieve, and who can help us achieve it?
#2—Making sure relationships are productive
Goal-orientation, transparency, and accountability are three essential elements of purpose-driven connections. Nonprofits and their partners have to align their missions around a set of concrete goals, have open discussions about the tactics for achieving those goals and metrics for measuring success, and be willing to change course if necessary.
One of the clearest trends in the nonprofit sector is the push for greater transparency around the allocation of resources and how outcomes are reported: in 2020, 69 percent of nonprofits said the demand for transparency from grantors had increased. Nonprofits should embrace this demand as a commitment to achieving real change and use it as an opportunity to communicate more candidly with grantors and other stakeholders.
#3—Purpose-driven connections in action
There has been a trend toward various forms of collaboration in the nonprofit sector for years, and organizations have expressed a renewed commitment to it during the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the immense financial pressure nonprofits have been under over the past year and a half – as well as their small budgets and lack of reserve funds even in healthier economic circumstances – collaboration has proven to be an essential tool for the capacity-building and operational dexterity required to scale impact.
Beyond the financial implications of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought nonprofits, grantors, and stakeholders together as demand for services has surged and the overlap between those services has become clearer than ever (for example, the economic consequences of COVID-19 have hit some communities much harder than others). This is a reminder that purpose-driven connections will only become more important for nonprofits and the communities that rely on their work.
This blog post is the first of a three-part series about the importance of purpose-driven connections. Stay tuned for next week’s article: How purpose-driven connections can secure equity.