Rural Nonprofit Collaboration – Unleashing the Power of Partnerships
Rural nonprofit collaboration can make a huge difference. Collaboration is a powerful tool that allows organizations to work together, share resources and expertise, and ultimately achieve more together than they could alone. But what does collaboration look like in rural communities?
In this blog, we’ll explore why collaboration is important for nonprofits in rural communities–and how you can bring it into your organization’s culture.
Recruiting New Volunteers
When it comes to recruiting new volunteers, there are a few things you can do. First, identify the right volunteers. For example, if you have an event that requires lots of hands-on help (like setting up chairs or tables), consider asking friends with children who might be interested in helping out for the day. You could also reach out to local businesses that may be able to provide discounts or other incentives for people who volunteer at your organization.
Second, leverage existing networks by reaching out through social media and word-of-mouth campaigns. This will connect you with people who already know each other and share common interests or experiences related specifically to volunteering at nonprofits like yours! Third, develop an outreach strategy based on these two points above so as not only to attract new faces but also retain them over time!
Partnerships for Recruiting Volunteers
There are a variety of potential partnerships that a rural nonprofit could explore in order to strengthen its organization, build its network, and attract new volunteers. Here are a few examples:
- Local Businesses: Partnering with local businesses can be a great way to gain exposure and support for your nonprofit. Consider reaching out to businesses that align with your mission or could benefit from your services. For example, if you are a nonprofit providing healthy food to low-income families, you might contact a local grocery store or restaurant to explore a partnership.
- Educational Institutions: Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions (think of your local high school!) can be valuable partners for rural nonprofits. Consider reaching out to professors or students who might be interested in volunteering or conducting research on your organization’s mission. You might also explore opportunities to partner with student organizations or service-learning programs.
- Community Organizations: There are likely a variety of other community organizations in your area that share your values or are working towards similar goals. Consider contacting these organizations to explore potential partnerships, such as joint events or rural nonprofit collaboration on specific projects.
- Pro Tip! With POINT, you can cohost events with other nonprofits! Learn about our collab tools here.
- Government Agencies: Depending on the nature of your organization’s mission, there may be government agencies at the local, state, or federal level that could be valuable partners. For example, if you are a nonprofit promoting environmental conservation, you might explore partnerships with the EPA or local parks and recreation departments.
- Faith-Based Organizations: Religious institutions can be valuable partners for rural nonprofits, especially if your organization’s mission aligns with specific faith-based values. Consider reaching out to local churches, synagogues, mosques, or other religious organizations to explore potential partnerships or opportunities to promote your organization’s mission.
Creating Effective Communication Strategies
When you think about the message you want to send, consider these three things:
- Developing consistent messaging for volunteers. What does your organization stand for? What does it do, and why is it important? How can your volunteers help with this mission? These are all questions that need answers before creating any kind of messaging strategy.
- Creating a unified voice. When developing your volunteer recruitment materials, make sure they reflect one voice–the nonprofits! This means using consistent language and tone throughout all channels (website copy, social media posts, and so on). It also means making sure that each piece reflects the same goals as other pieces in the same category (for example, if there are three different ways people can volunteer at an animal shelter, then those three options should be presented in similar ways).
- Leveraging the power of storytelling. Volunteers are more likely to participate if they feel connected with an organization through stories told by others who have been involved or heard about what happened when someone else volunteered there before them
Fostering a Culture of Rural Nonprofit Collaboration
- Developing a culture of collaboration. Collaboration is more than a buzzword, it needs to be a practice at your organization. To effectively collaborate internally and with partners, it’s crucial to make sure everyone is involved from the beginning. Together you can figure out what the overall goals and objectives are, and co-create a vision to guide your project. At that stage you can also determine which resources or skills everyone has to give. From there, divide and thrive! Assign responsibilities, and be sure to have regular checkins where people can bring up any challenges they’re having and the group can problem solve together.
- Creating a safe space for collaborators. No matter who you are collaborating with, everyone needs to feel safe within the group to express their ideas, opinions, and give feedback to other members. This takes practice, but it can help to engage nonviolent communication strategies and set standards from the get-go of treating everyone with respect. (And following through on ensuring members treat each other kindly.) Always air on the side of goodness, and assume that whenever someone in the collaborating group is giving an idea or feedback, they are doing it to make the collaboration better.
- Encouraging feedback. Collaboration and iteration go hand in hand, and iteration requires feedback. As a group, set standards for providing feedback. Maybe you all set aside an hour each week to review collaborative materials and add constructive comments, or there is a weekly feedback meeting where collaborators can talk about what is going well and what needs support. Make sure that you also have standards for providing feedback on group dynamics. Find what works for your group!
- Providing support to volunteers. This is just as important as recruiting them. Show volunteers you appreciate them by providing feedback and recognition, resources and training, or even simply making sure that the volunteer has everything they need to do the job well.
Evaluating Collaboration Efforts
Once you’ve established a successful collaboration, it’s important to evaluate the impact of your efforts. Evaluating your collaboration will help you determine if there are opportunities for improvement and how to make the most of what you have achieved so far.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How many volunteers have been recruited?
- Are they engaged in their work? Do they stay involved over time?
- What types of projects do they participate in, and why did these projects succeed or fail?
In addition to providing opportunities for rural communities, collaboration also helps nonprofits by allowing them access to perspectives they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. This can be particularly helpful when it comes time for grant applications or fundraising campaigns–having multiple perspectives on what makes an effective proposal will make your organization stronger overall!
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