Fast Build Friday: Episode 34- Understanding Strategic Nonprofit Alliances

How do you determine whether you should collaborate with another #nonprofit? Do you have clear criteria for entering into collaborations with other nonprofits or do you base your decision on fear or trust?

Today’s Fast Build Friday is about strategic nonprofit alliances. Nic highlights 3 key principles to consider when entering into a strategic nonprofit alliance.

If you are entering into collaborations simply to secure funding, or do not understand the structure of your collaborations and partnerships, or you are considering an alliance only because your organization is at its weakest, you are impacting your chance to improve your infrastructure and build sustainability.

When you step into strategic nonprofit alliances with immense clarity, you can strengthen your infrastructure, build your capacity, and expand the impact you’d like to have with vulnerable and marginalized communities.

What do your strategic nonprofit alliances look like? Let us know in the comments!

You can watch Episode 34 below.

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Fast Build Friday: Episode 33- The Importance of Having and Following a Conflict of Interest Policy

Raise your hand if you have a Conflict of Interest (COI) policy. Now, are you following that policy?

When you are not closely following your COI Policy, you may be missing out on opportunities to strengthen your work and infrastructure.

Today’s Fast Build Friday is about the importance of having and following a Conflict of Interest Policy. Nic discusses three considerations about these policies that illustrate just how critically important they are to strengthening infrastructure.

Working with #nonprofits and philanthropies around the world, Nic has seen the effect that a strong COI policy can have when implemented throughout the organization. It is an often overlooked way to help strengthen the framework from which you do your best work.

How are you handling conflicts of interest in your organization? Let us know in the comments!

You can watch Episode 33 below.

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Transformational Grantmaking is Most Needed in a Crisis

This article was originally published in the PEAK Grantmaking Journal. PEAK Grantmaking is a member-led national association of more than 5,000 professionals who specialize in grants management for funding organizations. PEAK members come together to form a vibrant community of practice that advances shared leadership and learning across the sector – helping funders of every size and type maximize their mission-driven work through living their values. Learn more at and follow @PEAKgrantmaking on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The COVID and social justice crises are requiring us to think of what we have been doing to effectively and nimbly support change. It is an interesting time, a scary time, and most importantly, a time in which we, as a sector, should be leaning in and taking incredible risks to create and support justice and equity.

The sector has generally subscribed to certain grantmaking expectations, rituals, and routines for years, embracing them as things that have always been done and should continue. We have thus tended to uniformly engage in grantmaking, often questioning the edges of our practices, but rarely the core. 2020 presents a key moment to fundamentally reconsider how we engage in grantmaking. Indeed, risk protocols should be challenged, new practices should be welcomed, and innovation should be explored in order to cause seismic shifts of power towards marginalized communities that have been historically left out of conversations.

Risk protocols should be challenged, new practices should be welcomed, and innovation should be explored in order to cause seismic shifts of power towards marginalized communities.

Here, I highlight three areas of focus within grantmaking for foundations interested in creating and supporting this kind of transformation.

First, ensure that the grantmaking process is accessible.

The grantmaking process is critical because it is how a foundation’s values are meaningfully incorporated into its grantmaking. A key consideration to creating an accessible process is understanding how a foundation has used or leveraged technology within that process. For example, can the grant application and materials be completed through a centralized portal that stores information about the grant that both the foundation and grantee can access? Can grantees sign award letters electronically instead of having to mail back a signed original? And is there an electronic payment process that gets funds to grantees quickly and does not involve grantees having to cash paper checks?

Another accessibility consideration is developing a shared, objective understanding of risk. This understanding can then be used to create grant risk profiles. These profiles can inform whether all grant agreements require signature from both the grantee and the foundation or if the grant can be made after the foundation decides to award the grant, which can make the process more efficient. This shared understanding of risk will also allow a foundation to determine whether it has the right decision makers within the process at the right time. If, for example, a foundation has its board approving every grant regardless of the amount or proposed activities, this type of decision-making may be creating inefficiencies within the grantmaking process, ultimately impacting how quickly funds are awarded. Creating a more accessible process will thus help create efficiency in how grants are awarded.

Second, start providing more flexible funding and support.

General support is frequently discussed as a sector best practice, but many foundations still have not generally adopted a more flexible funding approach. Given the tremendous needs that have surfaced within our current environment, foundations need to shift to more flexible funding awards to allow grantees to creatively approach risk and have the confidence to perform in the face of crisis. Indeed, grantees need funding that allows them to build their capacity at any time. When project support grants that do not focus on supporting the general needs of an organization are used as primary funding tools, they can interrupt an organization’s ability to strengthen its infrastructure and thus ultimately reduce the viability of the same projects that are the focus of the restricted funding.

Flexible funding encourages an organization to be brave – to show up as its most authentic self – to effectively problem-solve alongside the communities it serves.

To this end, foundations should transition their funding to more unrestricted, flexible funding – e.g., institutional support, general support, capacity building – and allow grantees to use this funding to build operating reserves and endowments. The sector should not expect innovation, experimentation, or accountability to lofty outcomes without this type of flexible funding. Only when organizations believe they have a funding safety net can we have organizations that perform as though they have a funding safety net. By not providing this kind of flexible funding, foundations support the creation of organizations that are too afraid to take risks, even calculated ones, because they do not know where they will receive funding to support their basic operational and organizational needs. In essence, providing solely restricted funding teaches organizations to be less nimble, less flexible, and take a one-dimensional approach to risk – avoiding it. On the other hand, flexible funding encourages an organization to be brave – to show up as its most authentic self – to effectively problem-solve alongside the communities it serves.

Third, expand the types of grantees that are supported.

If a foundation provides funding solely to U.S. public charities because it believes these organizations play a unique role in its work, given their status, then limiting funding only to these organizations makes sense. If no direct, strategic connection between an organization’s tax status and a foundation’s grant making exists, however, then the foundation should explore expanding the types of grantees it supports. Too often, foundations are guided by tax considerations – avoiding enhanced due diligence procedures, for example – to determine how they will engage in grantmaking and who their grantees should be. In this moment, that self-imposed limitation will limit a foundation’s flexibility and ability to innovate while advancing its mission.

Particularly in this time of COVID and social unrest, groups of individuals have come together to make change in nontraditional ways. Foundations should thus consider the critical roles that nonprofit organizations that are not public charities, fiscally sponsored projects, community-based organizations that may not have tax-exempt status, organizations that are not referred to them by their networks, and social-impact vehicles may play within the charitable ecosystem they are supporting to inform their grant making.

These three areas of focus illustrate key changes that foundations can make to their practices, work, and operations to ensure they are responsive and nimble, while also preserving their organizational integrity from both a legal and compliance perspective. Embracing just one of these areas can have a transformational outcome for a foundation, its grantees, and the vulnerable and marginalized communities they serve.

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The Discovery Pod Hosted by Doug Nelson: Episode 72

The Discovery Pod, hosted by former CEO Douglas Nelson, features conversations with leaders in non-profit/social sector. He talks with CEOs, Board Chairs, Founders and other senior leaders about how they got started in the sector, how they work with their boards, and what remains to be done. Doug is the current Managing Director of The Discovery Group, a philanthropy and governance consulting firm based in Vancouver, BC., where understands the complexity of leading organizations and institutions and the challenges of aligning governance and philanthropic performance.

Listen to Episode 72 where Doug interviews our very own Founder & CEO, A. Nicole Campbell. Together, they dive into how Nic found her way into the field of philanthropy, taking risks, her advice for philanthropy leaders and much more.

Click here to listen to Episode 72. 


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Fast Build Friday: Episode 32- The Connection Between a Unique Value Proposition and Infrastructure

Have you ever referred to another #nonprofit organization doing similar work as a “competitor”? Do you think that because an organization is doing work in the same space as you, you are automatically competing for funding?

Today’s Fast Build Friday is about the connection between a unique value proposition and infrastructure. In it, Nic highlights how you can identify your unique value proposition and also explain the clear link between a unique value proposition and infrastructure.

When you do not know your unique value proposition, you tend to see nearly anyone doing similar work as competitors. It also has serious implications for your programmatic strategy and infrastructure. When you understand and share your unique value proposition, however, it strengthens both your work and your infrastructure, which ultimately makes your organization more resilient and sustainable.

Do you spend time thinking about how you uniquely problem solve alongside the communities you serve? What is your unique value proposition? Let us know in the comments!

You can watch Episode 32 below.

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