New Strategic Partnerships Resource for Nonprofits

Over the past year, MAP for Nonprofits has served as a content contributor and a development partner with BoardSource to launch The Power of Possibility: Exploring Greater Impact through Strategic Partnerships campaign.

This campaign is designed to educate, inspire and motivate board members to pause and consider strategic alliances during some key moments in an organization’s life:

  • Executive transitions;
  • When organizational strategy is being considered;
  • When changes in your industry or the funding environment compel you to reconsider your organization’s business model.

artwork that says "The Power of Possibility"

Conversations about strategic alliances and restructuring can, and should, play an important role in the way nonprofit leaders think about the future of their organizations.  Nonprofit board and staff members have a tremendous responsibility: keeping their nonprofit organizations strong. They are empowered with decision-making responsibility that impacts their organizations’ work long into the future. And they are entrusted with ensuring that they are putting their core purpose and those who depend on their work first. The Power of Possibility campaign encourages nonprofit leaders to ask themselves: How could our efforts be accelerated and amplified? One possible answer: Together.

The Power of Possibility campaign provides nonprofit leaders with new resources and tools to help guide board discussions about the possibility of strategic alliances and restructuring. Nonprofit leaders are invited to think about the power of possibility, to take time to reflect on their organization’s core purpose and how those broad goals may be aligned with other organizations.

The Power of Possibility campaign highlights examples of the transformative power of strategic alliances. The stories and practices illustrate the up-side of what can occur when board and staff leaders devote a portion of their time and curiosity to reaching out and exploring what can be with other agencies.  We have our own story of transformation to add to this list.

In December of 2015, Judy Alnes, the MAP longstanding executive director, announced her intention to retire in the 4th quarter of 2016 to the MAP Board of Directors.  The board had a choice to make.  There was a succession plan in place. They had sufficient time to consider an executive search.  Our board could have done either, but they chose to embrace their curiosity and consider the possibility that there might be some value in extending the range of options to include seeking out a prospective merger partner.

The decision the MAP board made was inspired, in part, by our own research and practice of facilitating mergers.  BoardSource writes on its website that “…sometimes, in our efforts to serve our organization and its work, we can become singularly focused on our own success or survival, and lose sight of how what we do fits into the bigger picture.  How our work is impacted by others.  How our programs and goals overlap or intersect with other organizations.- How our efforts could be accelerated and amplified by working together.”  These words ring true for us.

We are living out a transformational story now.  Soon after the MAP board made the decision to seek out a merger partner, we identified Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF),  our state’s premier nonprofit lending and capacity-building partner.  NAF has been steadily increasing its organizational capacity-building with innovative low and no-fee options to serve all organizations.  As of January 1, 2017 – we are a merged organization that is now combining our capacities in ways we could not have imagined on our own to serve the nonprofit sector well.

The MAP board could have determined to “go it alone” and continue as an independent agency.  But the nonprofit sector will be better served because MAP and NAF are combining the strength of their history, board leadership, staff experience and organizational partnerships to be even more beneficial to the community we serve.  I hope that our story, and those of others in the The Power of Possibility campaign, inspires you to take that first step to be led by your curiosity to pursue the possibilities.

(The Power of Possibility campaign is a joint effort of BoardSource, The Bridgespan Group, La Piana Consulting, The Lodestar Foundation, Lyda Hill, MAP for Nonprofits, and The Patterson Foundation, with additional support from the C.S. Mott Foundation and The Trustees’ Philanthropy Fund of Fidelity Charitable. Download free resources to guide nonprofit board conversations about strategic alliances and restructuring at thepowerofpossibility.org.)

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