The Importance of Partnerships and Sustainability
As a Grant writer and Development professional I’m an avid consumer of industry journals, webinars, TED Talks, and all types of professional development literature. Apart from my own nerdy interest in the non-profit sector, I’ve found that keeping a finger on the pulse of trends and changes in development and fundraising makes me a more effective advocate for the Olmsted Center for Sight, and aids me in writing more impactful grant proposals for the agency’s many programs.
In recent months one of the most reoccurring themes I’ve come across is the need to efficiently articulate your agency’s sustainability when applying for grant funding. While financial sustainability is typically what comes to mind, budget sheets and revenue statements never completely encapsulate the health and longevity of an organization or program. Foundations and grantors often want to know about:
- The role your Board of Directors plays in the agency
- How the agency retains talented staff and executives
- How the agency utilizes volunteers
- If the agency has a strategic plan and how they use it
- The agency’s relationships with other organizations (both non-profit and for-profit)
That last one (relationships) is of particular importance. Successful non-profit organizations are often the ones that find ways to align themselves with other organizations in their community, whether it be co-sponsoring a program or something more long-term like a merger or alignment. The Olmsted Center for Sight works collaboratively with several organizations in Buffalo and Western New York, which apart from strengthening the particular program(s), also helps illustrate to funders that our organization is sustainable.
The Olmsted Center for Sight is formally partnered with the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), in which we share work contracts and procurements.
Contracts secured through this relationship provide full-time employment to blind and visually impaired individuals in Olmsted’s Contact Center and Manufacturing division. The Olmsted Center has also been formally partnered with the Buffalo VA Medical Center for over 20 years, in which the agency provides full staffing for the Call Center and Switchboard operations in Buffalo and Erie, PA. Through our partnership with Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York, Inc., the National Statler Center (Olmsted’s career training program) waives the tuition of one disabled veteran per class.
If you’re a successful non-profit, chances are you’re already engaged in some sort of relationship or alignment effort; your job as a grant-seeker is to be knowledgeable about your organization’s relationships and to be able to convey them in an impactful way when seeking funds.