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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Use Your Vision to Find Untapped Resources

The March 22 edition of Philanthropy Journal featured an article with the headline, Business partnerships seen boosting nonprofit causes. But, how do nonprofits identify the most appropriate partnerships? They can start by turning to their vision statements.

A well-written vision statement will have a community focus, that is, instead of speaking to how the organization will be seen – e.g., as the best, most successful, well recognized, etc. – it points to the impact it promises to make in the community. Most organizations have vision statements that actually reflect several such strategic impacts. For instance, a senior care facility might have a vision that commits to providing a warm, caring and safe environment where seniors requiring some level of outside support are able to spend their days living with dignity and respect at their full potential. In this case, the strategic impacts are 1) providing a warm, caring and safe environment for seniors; 2) helping seniors that require some level of outside support; and, 3) ensuring that these seniors have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential with dignity and respect.

Begin by identifying the strategic impacts in your vision statement. Then, for each, brainstorm those businesses or institutions that might also be interested in, or would benefit from, having a similar impact. In our example, those that might be interested in warm, caring and safe environments could include the police, security companies, other senior care facilities, real estate developers, families facing the need to find somewhere to place a loved one, families that had a bad experience when placing a loved one and who don’t want anyone else to go through something similar, doctors that know that their older patients do better – live longer and healthier – in such environments, nurses, home health companies, those that run training programs for nurses aides, and so on. Stretch. Get creative when listing possibilities.

After you have identified as many broad categories as possible for each strategic impact, determine which have the greatest capability to serve as a good strategic partner and/or to provide resources to your organization. Plug each of these types of businesses into a search engine such as Google, along with “vision” or “vision statement” and the words that make up your strategic intent. What will return are the specific businesses that share your beliefs, concerns and commitment. You now have several entities to approach and a common bond from which to start a conversation.

Avoid going in with hand outstretched. Research what their needs are and ask for an appointment to discuss how you might help each other accomplish your shared vision. Focus on advice – not money – at least at the beginning. People are almost always willing to offer intellectual capital. That often leads to money or gifts in kind however once they get to know your organization and become invested in it. In any case, your organization has successfully begun the important process of community engagement. That will bring its own rewards (the subject of another blog!).

Thanks to my colleague Steve Bowman of Conscious Governance in Australia for generously sharing this concept.

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