Today's post is part of my blog series of sharing chapter four of my book, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community.
FIND AN ORGANIZATION TO PARTNER WITH
As you look to do the great work of A Day of Hope you’re probably going to need an organization to partner with because partnering with other programs and organizations enables you to serve more people. Consider joining hands with a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to do your work.
Most nonprofits have a 501(c)3 number, a special type of designation from the IRS that allows the organization to be excluded from paying state or federal taxes on revenue. The 501(c)3 also requires that earnings are not paid out to shareholders (also known as board members) because the revenue is required to be invested back into the nonprofit and the community. A 501(c)3 basically means the organization is created to benefit the community for the greater good instead of to make money for shareholders or a founder.
Partnering with a 501(c)3 organization means you don’t really need to get a 501(c)3 for your project. As we’ve done A Day of Hope we’ve never became registered as an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The nonprofit laws in California are so rigid that it requires lots of paperwork and a long process to receive a 501(c)3 designation from the IRS. Even if you are able to complete all the paperwork, it can take as long as a year just for the IRS to approve or disapprove your paperwork.
Instead of going through the process of obtaining a 501(c)3 number we elected to partner with an organization that already has its 501(c)3 number. This has been one of the best decisions that we’ve made for A Day of Hope. It has saved us a lot of headaches, time, energy, and resources.
In 2006, A Day of Hope became an official club at California State University, Stanislaus. Being a club at the University allows us to use the CSU, Stanislaus Foundation as a fiscal agent to accept donations and manage our money. The partnership has worked well for the last four years. The Foundation takes care of sending donation receipt letters to donors and manages the IRS paperwork for us. All the while we are able to focus on doing what we do best: serving people.
As you start to think about doing A Day of Hope, consider the possible nonprofit partners you can work with in your community. If none come to mind, don’t sweat it. Our first year of A Day of Hope we didn’t have an official partnership. Because we were so small, we just accepted small donations of cash and food from people who wanted to support our work. If someone wanted to donate money, they gave the donation directly to me. Then I used the funds to purchase food for the project. Our project was so small we could do this and it was ok. But it didn’t work as we grew because more people wanted to donate money and they wanted to donate larger amounts.
When you’re looking to find a partner don’t be surprised if you aren’t welcomed with open arms.
When I first started looking for an organization to partner with us I met with two organizations, and neither of them were very kind to me. I remember talking to the executive director of a local food bank about possibly partnering with them, and not only was his response “no,” but he proceeded to tell me that there were already too many nonprofits being started and our community didn’t need one more. So don’t be surprised if you seek out local programs to partner with and they don’t treat you warmly.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when attempting to identify potential organizations to partner with.
- Who is already serving people in need?
- Are they serving people the same way I want to serve?
- Is there a specific need that I can meet by partnering with this organization?
- What are the benefits of me partnering with this organization versus doing it on my own?
- Is partnering with this organization going to help me raise more funds, recruit more volunteers, and therefore serve more people in need?
Most of this section has focused on helping you find a large, trustworthy organization to partner with to take care of the financial nonprofit matters you need to handle for A Day of Hope. A Day of Hope also partners with tons of different organizations, churches, and programs to do our work—and you’ll need smaller partners too. These are organizations such as a fraternity at CSU, Stanislaus that does a human auction every year as a fundraiser for us. They auction off men to women for an evening date.
We partner by doing marketing and promotion for the event, and then they donate 50 percent of what they raise to us. We’ve had local Rotary Clubs partner with us by giving them paper grocery bags and asking them to bring the bags to their weekly Rotary meetings to fill with food. We partnered with a local club at CSU, Stanislaus that did a large canned food drive on the school campus and then brought all their food to A Day of Hope. We gave them turkeys and allowed them to deliver the food to families.
When looking for an organization to partner with, you don’t necessarily have to have one your first year, but it’s very helpful if you’re able to find one.
Question: Have you partnered with other organizations/programs to do work in your community? If so, what worked well and did not work well?