When working for grassroots organizations, but also for larger governmental organizations and for the non-profit sector in general, we are often confronted with the task to mobilize resources to implement and scale up our programs.
A few years ago, when I started to work in the non-profit sector, mobilizing resources was somehow easier. Was there less competition? Were donors more generous? Was I more skilled in pulling resources to my organizations? I cannot say and maybe it is a combination of all these factors.
When I started to work in the field of resource mobilization and partnership engagement, larger UN Agencies did not compete for funds together with other non-profits. They had secured their own funds by their member States. For whatever reason, today the landscape has changed.
This has also brought about positive developments, like for example an increased emphasis on cooperation that has reduced the duplication of efforts and an improved capacity to share information and document good practices.
However, what does this change in landscape mean for us practitioners working in grassroots organizations and competing in the resource mobilization race?
Well, it means first of all that we need to be more strategic, systematic and intentional about our resource mobilization activities. While there is room for creativity and for trying out innovative solutions, we should not really be improvising too much. In order to carry out successful resource mobilization and partnership engagement activities, we should strengthen the organizational capacity of our NGOs in order to attract partners and potential donors. This means improved visibility and a sound communication strategy to reach out to potential partners and donors.
We also need to get comfortable with the Partnership Engagement Cycle, with conducting an analysis of our donor’s landscape to identify potential opportunities for partnership and financial support, and with writing a proposal for project funding.
This is why I’ve decided to share with you all I know about resource mobilization & partnership engagement and how to get the funds you and your organization need to achieve your goals.
In this post, we will explore the Partnership Engagement Cycle and a few practical tips for networking. In the next post, we will look more in detail into tips for writing projects proposals for funding.
The Partnership Engagement Cycle is a strategy for connecting with potential partners and getting them on board with your project or organization. It starts from the moment you start researching the partners’ landscape, moving into concrete engagement with them, and followed by the exploration of joint opportunities. These initial steps are then channeled into concrete collaborations, like implementing a project together. The cycle ends with reporting, which includes monitoring and evaluating the outcomes.
Today’s blog post aims to explore specifically Mapping & Engaging providing some tips and a checklist that could guide you in these crucial initial phases of the cycle.
The first step in the Partnership Cycle is Mapping. Doing research and looking out for potential partners is crucial for partnership engagement, but it will become a hard quest if you fail to document relevant information of each of the potential partners you have identified. In order to be more efficient it is good to look for potential partners and donors, and most importantly, to record the significant data that will help you systematize your efforts to better compare, prioritize, and take action for engagement. A systematic recording of information is crucial for a successful donor mapping and for building the capacity of your organization in this field.
The table below can guide your donor mapping. It has a few straight questions to understand donors, their motivations, their practices, and policies. Make sure you record this information when you do your donor landscape.
While mapping your potential donors and partners keep always in mind the vision, mandate and strategic direction of your organization, this will help you to find the right partners and donors focusing on common goals, synergies and mutual interest and building on them for a successful engagement.
Once you have a shortlist of potential partners and you feel ready to move forward, you can go to the second step of the cycle: Engaging
I have gathered the key tips for effective networking in the following list:
1- If possible, networking works best in neutral territories (conferences, symposiums, workshops) where you have the opportunity to present your work and prospective projects to several potential partners or donors, and where you can listen as well as observe their interests and get prepared to introduce your ideas.
2- Familiarize yourself with the environment and context of the prospective donor or partner. Learn as much as you can from them, so you are prepared to find synergies and spaces for collaboration.
3- Introduce your organization and your mandate, but make it SHORT AND SHARP! This is your opportunity to start a relationship, make a connection with the potential partner, be empathetic to their own cause and link it to yours, so they can also relate to it.
4- Do not ask for money up front, but instead focus on the relationship and the potential synergies between you and your prospective partner or donor. For example, share contacts and information unconditionally first: show a genuine will to collaborate, no strings attached.
5- Talk about a concrete proposal. It is better to be specific and avoid ambiguity when engaging with new partners.
6- Involve them from the start to build co-ownership of the project.
7- Invite them to one of your events or to visit one of your projects. This is a good opportunity to show tangible evidence of your work.
8- Submit your initial project proposal or application, depending on the case, and wait for the result. When possible try to consult the donor before submitting your final proposal. Even if the proposal is not accepted, make sure to follow-up and ask for feedback (when possible) about your application so that you can gain valuable lessons for your next submission.
Did you find these tips useful? Are you already using these techniques in your engagement with partners? Would you like to suggest more useful strategies to capture the interest of potential partners and prospective donors?
Please share your thoughts and experiences with us!