Collaboration with a community-based organization (CBO) can be a great asset to local governments, but before jumping into an agreement it is important to do some background work to ensure that the arrangement has a likelihood of contributing to joint success. This publication leads you through the issues to consider before entering into a collaborative agreement.
Establishing a Mutually Beneficial Baseline
Successful partnerships start with a baseline that clearly benefits both parties. You can enter a collaboration with confidence and maximize its chances for success by thinking through a number of important issues in advance.
Match the Mission Statement
When considering a CBO for project involvement, the first thing to take into account is whether or not the goals of the program and the mission of the CBO are in alignment. For example, if you plan to conduct a project focused on housing construction for low-income families, an ideal match might be Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that regularly performs such activities. Examine the CBO’s vision statement and past projects to evaluate the potential fit with your project. If there is a weak correlation between your project goals and the CBO’s goals, pursuing a collaborative agreement could end up wasting time and energy for both parties.
If you find that your mission aligns with a CBO you are considering, the next step is to evaluate your resources and the CBO’s resources. What resources can they offer that your organization lacks? For example, evaluate what the organization has available in terms of:
- Human resources
- Personnel resources
Additionally, if matching funds or cost sharing is required, leveraging the funds or other resources of potential partners can certainly work to your advantage.
Formal vs. Informal Agreements
Once you have evaluated the program goals and potential resources of the CBO, you can determine whether the CBO is better suited to be a formal or informal partner. Informal arrangements may involve letters of commitment and support, or a possible donation of funds or resources. A formal agreement is legally binding and will hand off a portion of the programmatic responsibility to the CBO. Formal agreements will also commonly involve transferring of funds. If you have come to the conclusion that you and the CBO share common ground, but sharing responsibility or contributing resources is impractical, an informal agreement may still be of great benefit to your project.
Formal Agreements: Stepping it up a Notch
If the CBO has resources that can benefit your project and is on board with your project, you may want to take things to the next level by creating a formal agreement. If you feel that this is a possibility, additional research on the CBO is the next step. Take a look at the CBO’s budget and develop a sense of its fiscal responsibility. When entrusting money to a partner, you must ensure that they have a good track record and make sound financial decisions. A seasoned and well-run CBO will bring more experience to the table and contribute to a greater likelihood of success than a CBO that has been in operation for a year or less and lacks experience and financial knowledge.
Collaboration has the potential to enrich any project, as long as you establish a good baseline that both parties consider to be mutually beneficial. Doing your homework before approaching any CBO can save you time in the long run and will increase your chances of developing a successful partnership.
eCivis is the nation's leading grants management software solution and the ideal platform for improving local governments' and community-based organizations' grants performance. For more information about eCivis, visit www.ecivis.com.
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