When it comes to making an impact with any given project, one organization can do only so much. Fortunately, organizations can extend their impact by working with other individuals and organizations. Since demonstrating impact is key to attracting grant dollars, as discussed in Part III of this blog series, you can increase your odds of funding by increasing your partnerships and hence your reach.
Here are some examples of collaborations that could help attract grant funding:
- A mentoring organization partners with the local police force and schools to identify students at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
- A humane society partners with a local university for student veterinary services supervised by faculty members.
- A senior services center partners with a state-wide older Americans professional group to disseminate guidebooks about a successful exercise program.
- A food and nutrition program partners with a local health clinic to prepare data on the health impacts of obesity.
- A medium-sized municipality partners with a regional transportation district to justify adding lanes to the main thoroughfare through town.
Any group that can help justify the need for your project, is touched by your effort, or can amplify your results is a potential collaborator. Your existing network of contacts is a good initial source for potential partners. Beyond existing contacts, your organization can organize brainstorming sessions to generate additional organizations to contact regarding potential collaborations. This blog doesn’t address the full array of best practices and occasional complications of working with partners, but I will mention a couple aspects of establishing a relationship and reflecting it in a proposal, both involving documents.
Put it in writing: The Abstract. We’ve written several blogs, such as this one, on incorporating effective abstracts into proposals. The initial abstract you prepare for a potential proposal partner is similar to an abstract within a proposal in that you have to briefly describe a compelling project. But it differs in that you also need to spell out the potential benefits of involvement for each agency and what types of commitment you are looking for from them. We’ve found that offering a variety of possible levels of involvement can spur interest and discussion on the part of agencies, especially if the benefits section makes it clear how your project can help further their mission.
Put it in writing: The Letter of Support. Funding agencies need to know that your proposed team members are in fact committed to the effort. Including letters of support from them is the typical means to confirm their interest and enthusiasm. The letter of support should in most cases be limited to one page, and it should be on the collaborating institution’s official letterhead and signed by someone with authority to commit the organization to the project. While the content varies depending on the situation, here are some key elements common to most good letters of support:
- Establish credibility and importance. Get the funder’s attention with the standing of the partner and their potential impact as a collaborator on your project. “We serve over 1,000 children daily throughout five counties with our CAN’T-STUDY-HUNGRY program” might be one example of an opener indicating that program should be taken seriously.
- Provide a rationale for support. It’s important to establish why the partner is willing to work on the project and how it serves their mission. Include text to describe why the partner is enthusiastic about the project—what’s in it for them. With careful wording, this paragraph can add to the argument in the proposal itself for the project being proposed.
- Demonstrate commitment. State what the partner is willing to do and what services they will provide. Avoid generic, vague words and statements like “We support their efforts,” or “We will investigate mutually beneficial alignments.” Instead, show that the partner is invested in the program by using specific wording, such as “We will provide expert advice and guidance during the planning phase of the project, and will solicit volunteers to help with implementation from our corps of 500 active volunteers.”
In most cases you will draft the letter of support and send to the partner to review, edit, and place on their letterhead, after you’ve discussed the project with them and have their agreement to work together in this manner. Not only does your effort in preparing the text save them time, it also allows you to craft the wording to best support your proposal.
One other note: don’t be afraid to involve partners in the proposal effort itself. Often collaborators can contribute data, can review and edit the proposal at various stages, or can provide other resources that further strengthen your proposal.
We can help brainstorm potential partners and ways to involve them in your proposed effort. Feel free to contact us at no charge to discuss ideas and approaches for your organization.
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