Non-profit organizations and mission-driven businesses exist in a system, just like everything else in the world. At the center of the wheel are the community's needs: the reason to exist. The spokes of the wheel are staff, trustees, funders, members, and similar organizations and businesses.
We have a choice: We can view others who are working on similar projects as entities competing for limited resources. Or we can view them as partners who have strengths that can help to fulfill our needs, and vice versa.
Trust, open communication, commitment to a shared vision, and clearly identified roles go a long way in forming effective partnerships. Jumping in blindly into partnerships is certainly not advisable, but, with practice, they become second nature and a crucial part of fulfilling the mission of organizations.
Experience with Partnerships
WNC AgOptions is a unique partnership between N.C. State University and non-profit organizations such as Handmade in America, RAFI-USA and WNC Communities with the goal of building sustainable farming communities by providing resources for transitioning farmers. As the project manager 2008 to 2010, Megan worked closely with 18 Cooperative Extension Centers and a multi-partner steering committee, facilitating quarterly meetings alongside the committee leader.
Blue Ridge Forever is a collective campaign led by 13 land conservation organizations to engage the public and raise financial resources to safeguard land and water in the Southern Blue Ridge for present and future generations. As the coalition's first coordinator from 2005 to 2007, Megan assisted the partners in establishing the foundation of the partnership, including the initial marketing materials. Asheville Citizen-Times recognized the importance of Blue Ridge Forever's conservation vision, which Megan helped create, in a September 9, 2008 editorial.
At the core of Lesley University's Masters in Environmental Education program is collaboration. Students form collective decisions, resolve group conflicts and direct their own group learning experience. While completing her M.S. in Environmental Education, Megan learned a great deal about effective facilitation techniques and the value of partnerships.