Partnering w/the Non-Profit World
Getting ready for a day of meetings with one of the largest networks of relationships in our community. Nope, not going to an denominational or church meeting, but to hang out with a local non-profit that I’ve been privileged to work with over the past few years. Lots of great reasons for churches to partner with non-profit organizations in our communities. In his great book, Barefoot Church, Brandon Hatmaker list several great ones:
- Nonprofits typically have a great reputation in the community. “While nonprofits are often the most well-connected organizations in the city, churches remain some of the most isolated voices in our community.” Getting involved can help open doors for greater influence and greater impact for the gospel.
- Nonprofits are experts in their field of work.
- Partnering with nonprofits offers a new posture for the church. A few years ago I attended a volunteer roundtable hosted by the Lt. Governor of our state, and as the only pastor in the room I sunk in my chair as leaders of non-profits asked why churches didn’t get more involved in the community. They saw the potential for impact for and with the church before I did. And don’t assume that these partners are against us sharing our message. Most expect it and desire faith engagement.
- Nonprofit partnership is an easily reproducible strategy. If you’re looking for opps to engage the community, the nonprofit world is a easy “plug and play” arena. We as leaders need only to assimilate opportunities to serve, communicate the process, and empower people to go.
- Nonprofits need volunteers more often than they need money. Hatmaker notes that “lack of resources is the most common excuse churches make not to serve the poor.” While they’d certainly appreciate a financial donation, a working relationship does not hinge on it. Often the greatest need is people.
- Serving with nonprofits provides a platform to serve selflessly. Serving with a nonprofit is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on something happening for the good of our community. Our culture sees churches as self-absorbed (I asked one non-profit leader how a church could help him and he said honestly and without malice based on his experience personally and professionally, “I didn’t know churches helped people”).
Hatmaker also lists six steps to effective partnerships:
- Start with a common redemptive purpose. There are definitely nonprofits that are doing much of what God’s word calls us to do in relation to justice and bringing hope. Start there.
- Prioritize developing relationships. There will be worldview issues that collide when engaging outside the church. And we’ll have a better platform for engaging these as we build nonagenda-oriented relationships with community leaders.
- Trust their leadership. If you can’t trust their leadership, then move on to a different non-profit. But I’ve found nonprofit leaders from Fire Depts to Food Banks to be hard working, trustworthy, and eager to have the church as a partner.
- Lose your agenda. We’re coming to serve them in a common redemptive purpose. Focus on serving them.
- Give away the credit. “If you are willing to partner with local nonprofits who have spent years building credibility in different areas of service, take a backseat, and don’t seek a name through this.”
- Commit to be available. The best way to build credibility with community leaders is through availability and follow through.
Check your local government website. They should have a list of nonprofits in the area. If you’re in St. Tammany it’s here. You can also sign up to receive a monthly update to this list with specific opportunities called The Loop.
Check out this church in Austin, TX that assimilates opps to serve through nonprofits in their city. Here is their Christmas list.
What nonprofit are you working with? Have you learned any lessons in this regard?
Another topic for another day is starting a nonprofit alongside the ministry of the church.
Pick up Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker for more great ideas and inspiration for incarnational ministry.