From Convergent Nonprofit Solutions –

How Community Partnerships Can Increase Funding

Community impact is the driving force in so many capital campaigns for nonprofits, chambers and economic development organizations today. Joining forces with like-minded organizations to increase the impact makes perfect sense, but it’s surprising how few organizations actually follow through with community partnerships. This collaboration can help build leadership and creatively tackle complex issues such as workforce development, talent attraction and community capacity.

Here’s a real-world example of the strength and success partnerships can bring.

Yvonne Williams, president & CEO of the Macon Chamber, knew workforce development and talent attraction were the priorities for Macon-Bibb County’s businesses, but a new approach was needed. The Chamber had used capital campaigns previously for economic development and asked Convergent Nonprofit Solutions to manage their important next campaign, Forward Macon.

Meanwhile, United Way of Central Georgia had taken on community revitalization but struggled to find long-term funding for the staff person the plan required. When community leaders learned about Forward Macon, they asked if the Chamber was willing to partner and include the funding for United Way’s community engagement project manager, as well as funds for a community grant program managed through the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. A partnership was born.

As the Forward Macon capital campaign unfolded in 2021 under the Greater Macon Chamber’s 501(c)3, it became clear that working through the challenges of partnering was worth it. Business and community leaders are often barraged with funding requests. They were grateful that multiple organizations were making one ask jointly.  Forward Macon is close to its goal and expects to reach it before the end of the year.

The Greater Macon Chamber’s feasibility study tested the workforce and community revitalization initiatives as well as other ideas, including entrepreneurial support and business retention. The study revealed that workforce and talent attraction were most important. The Chamber eliminated the business retention strategy to focus on workforce development. Instead of eliminating the entrepreneurial strategy, the Chamber included it as a part of talent attraction in their plan and partnered with SparkMacon, a local organization focused on supporting startups.

Four Reasons You Should Partner

More resources to the cause

The most apparent reason for two or more nonprofits to raise money together is that more resources will go to implementing the plan instead of fundraising or overhead. In Macon’s situation, four nonprofits received funding. The Greater Macon Chamber did the heavy lift on managing the campaign and built the costs into the budget for the funds raised.

More efficient implementation

Establishing a partnership to raise the money elevates the need for each organization to examine its strength and capacity to implement. Providing funds for SparkMacon put both organizations in better positions to execute what businesses need in Macon-Bibb County and leveraged each organization’s expertise.

Lead by example

Chamber CEOs often speak of community partnerships but rarely do they mean partner to raise money. Frankly, it is hard to structure how to allocate the funds coming in and even harder to determine how to share the expenses. It becomes even more difficult if there is overlap, perceived or actual, in program and service delivery. For the Greater Macon Chamber, the key in all partnerships was input from leadership. Top-level executives from all organizations were involved in not just building the plan but also in facilitating the campaign itself.

Meet specific investor needs

Several Forward Macon supporters expressed interest in specific tactics within the plan. The Forward Macon agreement among the organizations allowed investors to designate funding for specific initiatives. Providing an option for fund designation allowed Forward Macon to tap into local and corporate foundations.