On Friday, September 29th, more than 150 attendees packed the Georgia-Pacific Building’s Auditorium for Foundation Center South’s Third Annual Nonprofit Resource Fair. Each year the Fair provides dynamic networking opportunities for nonprofit professionals to connect with nonprofit service providers across the Atlanta metro area. Representatives staffed booths from twenty-three different agencies, including grantmakers from the United Way of Greater Atlanta and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

In addition to exhibitor booths, The Nonprofit Resource Fair hosts a dynamic program featuring grantmakers and organizations. This year’s Grantmaker Meets the Changemaker program explored how collaboration projects win grants and highlighted how local nonprofits are collaborating for greater community impact.

Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director of Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta moderated the panel discussion. Participants included, Protip Biswas, Vice President of Homelessness and Community Outreach, United Way of Greater Atlanta; Jimiyu Evans, Co-CEO, PCCI Consulting; Lesley Grady, Senior Vice President, Community, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and Kenneth Zeff, Executive Director, Learn4Life.

Take-aways from this discussion revealed 4 key ingredients for successful nonprofit collaborations.

1. Take time to build relationships

Protis Biswas emphasized the importance of knowing what you do best and implored nonprofits to not work alone, but to find partners and leverage each organization’s strengths. Building trusting relationships takes time and intentionality but is worth the investment. Building relationships also helps organizations gain a better understanding of the other service providers working to solve issues in the same interest area as well as geographical area. So it pays to be knowledgeable about other service providers in the community and invest time to establish trust.

2. Make sure organizations are aligned in mission and values

Kenneth Zeff encouraged organizations to look at how well each organization aligns according to their values in addition to their mission. By submitting a Memorandum of Understanding containing scope of work including code of conduct allows all parties to work from a shared vision

3. Be flexible

Leslie Grady implored nonprofits to be flexible in their approach to finding solutions to problems; particularly, by not getting stuck in a delivery system. Often, nonprofits get attached to one way in which they deliver services, even if proven not as effective. Being  flexible allows organizations to stay open to better delivery services models and is a key factor in sharing power effectively.

4. Develop clear-cut measurable outcomes

Jimiyu Evans expressed how vital it is for organizations to clarify their purpose for collaborating. Developing measurable outcomes for the partnership is essential when vying for funding. Grantseeking is a competitive process and organizations must do their due diligence to ensure proper stewardship of grant awards and communicate intended outcomes for those they serve. Reliable data surrounding issues is critical to understanding the past, present and anticipating positive outcomes for the future.

Foundation Center South extends a hearty thank you to Fair organizer, Utoia Wooten, Community Outreach Manager and staff, attendees, exhibitors, panelists, and the Georgia-Pacific Center for their generous support!

For real-world examples of nonprofit partnerships, explore the 650+ case studies at Collaboration Hub, which also has reports, articles, podcasts and videos all pertaining to different forms of collaboration.

ASIA HADLEY is City Lead at Foundation Center. Previously she worked as Virtual Assistant and Training Coordinator at the Center's Atlanta office. In addition, she served as vice-president of the Atlanta Nonprofit Professionals, and volunteered as a grant funding peer reviewer for the Commission for Service and Volunteering.

Subscribe to our blog

When we publish a new blog post, you’ll get notified by email.

Interested in being a guest writer for our blog? Learn how