How To Say Yes to Partnerships and Programs


When you’re starting out, it’s helpful — and maybe even necessary — to be open to saying yes. When facing the city you’re serving, you must have a radically open posture. Other organizations, teachers, and parents will come to you with ideas and proposals. Being open to these ideas is crucial. Have conversations. Keep the doors open. Keep your heading nodding. Any new organization becomes, for many people in your community, a blank canvas, a repository of their hopes. So affirming these good feelings is so important.

It doesn’t mean that every proposal will come to fruition. Many won’t. But remember that you are new, and you should be flexible, and partnerships can — and very often do — result in a doubling of impact, and bring you in contact with other people, schools or nonprofits that you otherwise might not know.

There are many woeful tales of new nonprofits that move into a city, and are too busy or too distracted to meet with and listen to other organizations. This never ends well. Word gets around that this new organization is aloof, is stuffy, is closed-minded. Remember that the nonprofit world in any city is small, and word travels fast if your attitude is unfriendly. So be open. Partnerships might very well be a significant part of the work you do.

Some examples:

- A local Girls and Boys Club serves 100 students after school every day, but they don’t have enough tutors. You and the Club agree to partner on after-school tutoring. You send tutors to their space and serve their kids. Everyone benefits.

- A nearby shelter for homeless families, or families in temporary housing, comes to you. The kids living in the shelter have no enrichment opportunities. Together you design a program where a team of tutors visits the shelter every week, providing homework help and also fun and even therapeutic writing projects.

- A local adult literacy project approaches you. They say that the adults who come to their evening classes often bring their children, but that they don’t have services for these kids. Together you design a program where your tutors come to the evening classes, and bring the kids to an adjoining room where you work on their homework and enrichment projects. Everyone benefits — while the adults learn, the students finish their homework, and the family can go home having received two services at one site.

So remember openness. Remember flexibility. Partnerships can be the lifeblood of what you do.