Partnering, Bartering, and Sponsoring: Seriously Strategic Sources for Support

7K0A0603Strategic alliances. In the nonprofit world, strategic alliances are often what separates impactful missions from those that are seemingly impossible to realize—or in other words, the big dogs from the pups. If you’re a leader in the world of nonprofit and have not yet journeyed into this part of the fundraising world, you’re missing out on all the rewards your colleagues are already reaping.

Partnering among entities where each commits resources to achieve a common set of objectives is what strategic alliances are all about. Organizations form these agreements with companies, customers, suppliers, competitors, universities or divisions of government—or any combination thereof. Doing so can improve visibility, increase outreach, create additional sources for critical but missing skills, as well as spread out the share of risk and responsibility incurred in carrying out your mission.

Bartering with the same kinds of entities is another effective way for a nonprofit to advance its mission and vision. provides a definition of barter as “the act of trading goods and services between two or more parties without the use of money. Bartering benefits individuals, companies and countries that see a mutual benefit in exchanging goods and services rather than cash, and it enables those who are lacking hard currency to obtain goods and services.”

In my former life as executive director for a nonprofit arts organization, I used this survival strategy in many different ways. One of the many beneficial bartering deals I negotiated was with a local domestic violence prevention program. We provided the use of our facility to them at no charge for their fundraiser gala. This was undoubtedly a win-win-win barter, good for them, good for us, and even more good for the community.

For the domestic violence program, this freed up a significant part of their budget to better serve the community’s needs. For us, it brought people into the arts center for the first time who were also consumers of all things fine art. It also positioned us in a good light as part of a positive social conscience of change for the region. And we benefited from some free publicity by being noted as one of the program’s sponsors, helping to make the advancement of their mission more possible.

7K0A0962Speaking of sponsors, there’s another aspect to be sure to include in your nonprofit’s fundraising plan. Sponsors provide financing for a project, event, program, or for your organization overall. Be sure to have a multi-tiered sponsorship schedule developed that maximizes the abilities of your funders to support your mission.

Finding sponsors can be exhausting. Starting out by a review of potential sources such as local businesses and professionals is the easy part. They often are not able to provide dollars, but may be able to provide in-kind gifts…or a free/reduced facility rental for your event.

For a slightly larger scope, you might consider trying’s suggestion of doing an Internet search for the keywords “sponsorship levels”, plus word(s) that describe your organization or event (e.g., “youth”, “theater”, “conference”, “festival”) and see what comes up.

A final tip—your grant applications will be more impressive to funders if you have demonstrated a strong sense of support through an extended list of various strategic alliances…food for thought until next week…