Developing Partnerships to Enhance Your Volunteer Program
Being a leader of volunteers certainly comes with its challenges. For many, one challenge is discovering ways to increase the reach of the services your volunteers deliver with limited resources. An effective way to enhance your volunteer program and increase its sustainability is through the development of strategic partnerships.
The best partnerships are ones built between your organisation and another where both parties contribute and receive mutual benefit. By developing partnerships you can build capacity and gain access to additional skills, resources and knowledge. Additionally, partnerships have the capacity to expand the reach of your program. Partnerships may also provide additional avenues for attracting donations, gaining brand exposure and media opportunities.
Determining Who to Partner With
Prior to developing a partnership, it is important to think strategically about which organisations are the best fit. Some questions to consider are:
- What is your current need and how will a partnership benefit your volunteer program?
- Which partnerships would add value to your volunteer program e.g. expand the reach of your program or build capacity?
- Does their Vision, Mission and Values align with yours?
- What are the next steps to develop the partnership?
- What additional skills and / or resources are required to develop the partnership?
Developing a Partnership
Now that you have decided which organisation you would like to partner with, it is important to consider the following details of the relationship:
- Desired outcomes: What outcomes are you seeking to achieve and what are your expectations of your potential partner
- Collaboration: How will you collaborate together and what resources are you willing to share?
- Commitment: What level of commitment is required from both parties to be a successful?
- Agreement: Developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or similar is recommended. This can provide clarity around the relationship, objectives, insurance coverage and the commitment required.
- Communication: Consider what communication channels you will utilise. Will you meet regularly to ensure both organisation’s expectations are being met?
Partnerships to Consider
- Universities, colleges and training institutions: Many students are eager to volunteer and simultaneously gain experience in their area of study. For example; if you are regularly recruiting volunteers for events; developing a partnership with a training organisation which runs event management courses can be beneficial. Have a think about your volunteer roles and what institutions deliver courses that are aligned.
- Corporate volunteering: Many large organisations now include volunteering as part of their corporate social responsibility. In addition to providing corporate volunteering opportunities, consider establishing alternate support avenues. This can include workplace giving, fundraising events, sponsorship, providing a venue as well as donating goods and services. Providing skills-based volunteers for specific projects can also be a valuable avenue of support.
- Government entities: Numerous public hospitals, prisons and local councils have successful partnerships with community organisations. For example, an animal welfare organisation partnering with public hospitals to provide pet therapy to patients. The hospitals receive pet therapy for their patients and the animal welfare organisation can benefit from the brand exposure.
- Not for profits: Partnering with other not for profits for specific projects may lead to both organisations having a greater reach. An example of this is an organisation who supports disadvantaged women. By developing a partnership where the women can volunteer with another not for profit, they can gain skills and confidence. Simultaneously the other not for profit gains the support of a group of dedicated volunteers.
- Sector collaboration: A less formal but equally valuable partnership avenue is with other organisations in your sector. Sharing resources, knowledge, training, venues and supporting each other for a common purpose can drive your sector forward for mutual benefit.
There are many possibilities when it comes to developing partnerships to enhance your volunteer program. The key is to thinking strategically about which partnerships will be of most benefit to your program.
What partnerships have you developed and how have they helped your organisation?