In Focus: Promoting Networking Among Nonprofits

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In this practice, intermediary organizations encourage nonprofits to develop meaningful connections with peers. This is similar to the first practice, except instead of connecting with communities, nonprofits connect with each other to foster sustainable partnerships and collaborative relationships. This practice can lead to improved participant reactions to training and technical assistance activities.

Practice review: peer networking among nonprofits helps sustain organizational growth.

Informal relationships among nonprofits can help promote collaboration, resource-sharing, and the development of sustainable business relationships. Intermediaries can promote these peer collaborations through formal networking opportunities at in-person training events, peer mentoring programs, and the utilization of project management tools that promote resource-sharing.

Consider these suggestions for implementing peer networking.

One way to implement peer networking is to match nonprofits with more experienced “mentor organizations.”  The Kentucky River Foothills Development Council, for example, matches nonprofits with larger, more experienced groups.  Mentoring organizations are required to sign an agreement regarding the number of hours set aside to work with their nonprofit mentees.  KRFDC hopes these informal peer mentoring relationships will continue beyond the life of the TTA services, and result in potential subcontracting agreements between mentor and mentee organizations.

Another suggestion is to encourage peer-to-peer learning through training and workshops.  The Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services, or SENetwork, has hosted retreats midway through a project with a nonprofit.  The retreats focus on networking, peer learning interactions, and developing collaborative relationships to help nonprofits reach their capacity building goals.  Additionally, when developing new training, SENetwork searches for subject matter expertise within its own member base before looking to contract with outside trainers or providers.

Finally, use technologies that promote collaboration and resource-sharing among nonprofits.  SENetwork provides all of its nonprofits with access to BaseCamp (a web-based project management and collaboration tool) and iLinc (a web- and video-conferencing service) to promote collaboration and resource-sharing.   (You can check these tools out at http://basecamphq.com/ and http://www.ilinc.com.)

Click to open interactivity Share the responsibility for hosting trainings and meetings.

Share the responsibility for hosting trainings and meetings.

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