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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How nonprofits can utilize strategic alliances to achieve their mission

Links of a chain

Strategic alliances can help organizations achieve their missions more efficiently and affordably. When two organizations come together, whether they have a similar mission or a totally different one, the new, more diverse group can bring about numerous new competencies and perspectives to help the organizations reach their common goals in new and innovative ways.

The benefits

The utilization of strategic alliances is especially significant now that the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the nonprofit sector in terms of availability of funds, volunteer willingness and costs of necessary changes to operations to provide safe services while still providing mission support. The following benefits are not only helpful in our current pandemic climate but are also important as we return to normal.

  • Cost savings
  • Joint planning responsibilities
  • Participation of new/different donors, volunteer, employees, and funders
  • Increasing breadth and scope of services
  • Brand reparation
  • Creation of operational efficiencies
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Expansion of programming
  • Greater community visibility
  • Political influence
  • Improvement of fundraising
  • Revitalization of the organization
  • Satisfying lenders and their requirements

How to begin

Before beginning a strategic alliance, one must consider the potential problems that can arise without careful consideration from the start. Nonprofit collaborations: Why teaming up can make sense suggests the use of an outside consultant to help when planning strategic alliances as they can use their past experiences to help guide nonprofits through the steps of a successful venture. All parties must have a thorough understanding of the expectations, obligations, and leaders of the alliance to avoid issues that could be devastating to the process.

The process to begin a strategic alliance can be broken down into three steps: development, implementation, and evaluation. The development stage picks a leader, defines the goals, chooses the organizations involved, defines the type/length of alliance, and establishes the team. The implantation stage requires organizations to come together to define the operations, responsibilities, and economics required of each organization to avoid problems during the alliance. The final step of a strategic alliance is the evaluation after the conclusion of the endeavor or at an agreed upon interval. Evaluation ensures that the alliance was worth the trouble and gives organizations a chance to see where adjustments can be made to make the process more effective and efficient.

Strategic alliances offer nonprofit organizations so many potential benefits. Though the process can be daunting, careful development, implementation, and evaluation can prove the importance of starting this journey. There is no one way to accomplish a strategic alliance but the benefits provide plenty of motivation to begin the process. 

Jessica Semder is 2022 graduate of the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University and a member of the Nu Lambda Mu Nonprofit Honor Society. She is an Air Force wife and mother of three who has always worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector. She is currently looking for a nonprofit on the East Coast to dedicate her professional life to after being stationed in Honolulu, HI for over eight years.

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Illustration by Lillian Finley, ASU Lodestar Center.

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog