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What is a community partner?

For clarity, let’s use the very broad definition that a community partner is any public, private, or nonprofit entity with which your organization has (or could have) a partnership. These partners could be ongoing individual donors, community groups, schools, or businesses who believe in your mission. There really are no limits!

If you are having problems seeking new community partners, check out our blog: “4 Places to Find New Community Partners.” After you know your organization’s current and target community partners, then, let’s address why it is important for your organization to invest in those relationships.


1.) Awareness

When building a community partnership, your organization gets to spread awareness about your mission, programs, and impact. Whether you’re a brand-new, just launched nonprofit or a seasoned, household-name nonprofit that’s launching a new initiative – this awareness can be important for success.

For example, there’s that old philosophical question: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, to a nonprofit, a lack of awareness can be a death sentence. It will limit your pool of donors, and therefore your impact. Not only do you need everyone to know that the tree fell in the forest, but you also need them to care that the tree fell.


2.) Advocacy

Awareness is important, but community partners also act as great advocates. This advocacy may not be a direct statement: “We are an advocate for organization x and support their mission.” But, instead can come in many forms. An indirect approach doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not advocating for your mission.

Your partnership can give your organization, program, or event legitimacy and help build trust. Whether it comes from an ongoing investment through a community giving program or a one-time event, run by a small-town, local store, any shared marketing opportunity acts as an endorsement. An endorsement conveys the company’s belief in your organization’s mission and the ability to get the job done.


3.) Provide an excellent, invested pool of candidates for volunteering

The average volunteer hour is currently valued at $24.69 by the Independent Sector. Therefore, volunteers aren’t just nice to have. They’re valuable.

So far, your community partner has spread awareness and advocated for your organization. This newly inspired knowledge and trust in your brand will help to bring in volunteers. Some examples of these volunteers could be current employees of your community partner, family and friends of employees, customers, clients, or passers-by.


4.) Community partners can turn into donors

If they’re not already, community partners can become your largest donors. After your community partner has become aware of your organization, advocated for your purpose, and volunteered, they probably feel pretty invested. However, it is important to recognize that donations are required to accomplish your mission.

Often, these donations often come in the form of sponsorships. They can sponsor your organization, a program, or a single event (in a perfect world, they’ll sponsor all three!). Sponsorship doesn’t have to be strictly monetary but can come as in-kind donations as well. For example, a donation of space for a nonprofit conference is of huge value and can be recognized as a form of sponsorship as well.


5.) Recruit new partners

Successful community partnerships beget new community partners. For a nonprofit, a great partnership has given your organization more visibility, legitimacy, volunteers, and resources. Done well, each of these will help open new opportunities for community partners.


Mia Mahaney
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Mia Mahaney


Mia is an impact-driven consultant who partners with nonprofits and cause-driven businesses to grow their impact. She believes in their power and ability to solve the most challenging problems and is committed to giving them the support they need.

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