Re·la·tion·ship (noun) A connection, association or involvement. An emotional or other connection between people.
In nonprofits, relationships are everything. To achieve your mission, you need people. You need people who are willing to help you put in the effort to help you achieve your mission. You need people who are committed to donating their time to help you achieve your mission. You need people who are willing to invest their money to help you achieve your mission. You need a staff to help keep all the parts moving. Nonprofits must have relationships — connection, association, involvement. And you have to make it emotional to build a lasting relationship. These enduring, lasting relationships will make a difference in how your organization views the strategies needed to achieve your mission. Simply stated: nonprofits need people to succeed.
Many nonprofits are embracing the concept of “relationship management,” recognizing that raising money is NOT the only way to achieve organizational mission. What does this really mean?
I define relationship management as recognition of the magnitude of all existing and potential organizational relationships and engaging these relationships in a mutually beneficial way.
We have to start with the basics. The recognition that relationships are important is the first step. The next step is shifting organizational culture from a transactional mindset to a relationship mindset. Honestly, I believe that this transition of mindsets is the hardest part. When an organization has built a solid business model around transactions, why fix something that isn’t broken? The answer — because in the long-term, relationships are going to pave the way for lasting success instead of annual transactions. Relationships create an emotional connection to your mission and to your community’s needs.
I am so encouraged when I see creative examples of how nonprofits are extending their reach by building relationships that are connected to their mission goals. It sounds so simple, but it is a different way of thinking for many nonprofits. Many organizations have long been focused on the fundraising model because it works. Money is raised; money is put toward solving community issues. Now, many nonprofits are finding that relationships are really the magic trick. When you can connect people to needs, you can build a relationship.
I posted this on my Pinterest board of “Nonprofit Examples that I Love,” but check this out — United Way for Southeastern Michigan (Detroit, MI) @unitedwaysem created an advocacy campaign on their annual Day of Action. (Side note: enter “United Way Day of Action” into Google and you will find so many encouraging examples of advocacy campaigns geared toward building relationships connected to community needs.) United Way for Southeastern Michigan put real people in front of simple, powerful signs that are connected to the issues that they are trying to solve in their community. They created an online social media campaign that got attention in the community. Now that is relationship management at its finest.
Stay connected with me as I blog about all things relationship building for nonprofits. I have experience in “relationship management” at United Way, and I’m here to help others by sharing my knowledge on what I’ve done and what I’ve learned to be applied to the entire nonprofit sector. If you’re looking for more info about me, check out my website. I’m committed to making a difference. I look forward to connecting with YOU.