Building business relationships between nonprofits and foundations are different (and should be) from personal relationships.
The strongest business relationships are built by sharing an experience or event in a joint venture. As an example, in a local catastrophe the nonprofit and foundation can work together in recovery efforts. Later, they should have developed an understanding of how each other operates or not. Even with partial success in the joint venture, a strong relationship can develop.
Another example is a long time commitment with each other. Trust is built over the years because the nonprofit is able to spend the foundation’s money efficiently and effectively while meeting all the reporting requirements. The foundation knows they can rely on the nonprofit to manage projects and money accurately.
Other relationships are built by shared interests between the primary board members of both organizations. This interest is usually outside the mission areas of the nonprofit and foundation and could include shared work activities, similar hobbies, or family relatives.
These are positive ways to build relationships. There are also negative ways such as accumulating political capital. Politics is everywhere and not just in governments. I won’t go into specifics because I don’t recommend this, but a person builds political capital through “owing favors.”
Having a positive relationship is important for many reasons. One of the primary advantages is:
- A nonprofit has a support system when they need help in a crisis (usually financial)
- The foundation has a viable source they can contact when they want to help people in the community
The most important ingredient of all these examples is communication. Whether sharing an experience, knowing each other for years, or have like interests, relationships are built on conversation.