Daily Archives: 28 March 2012

Nonprofits & NGOs: Get to Know a University

Nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs):

Do you know what community colleges, public universities and private universities are nearest your agency, geographically? And do any of the degrees or classes they offer relate to the mission of your organization in any way?

For instance,

  • If your organization provides counseling, have you investigated to see if the nearest college or university has a graduate degree program in psychology?
  • If your organization assists victims of domestic violence, have you investigated to see if the nearest college or university has a degree program in social work?
  • If you are focused on the environment in any way, have you investigated if the college or university offers any environment resource management-related courses?
  • If you work with people trying to start micro-enterprises, have you investigated to see if the college or university nearest you offers business management classes, or even an MBA?

Here’s why your organization needs to be able to answer these questions:

  • Your nonprofit or NGO has the real-world environment that college and university faculty and graduate students need for academic research and practical experience.
  • Higher ed institutions have the skills and knowledge your organization may need as well as probono consultants or researchers or on-loan staff.
  • Faculty at colleges and universities get contacted by the media, and if the story is going to be something related to your organization’s mission, they will refer those reporters to you as well.
  • Faculty may hear of funding opportunities that might be appropriate for your organization. 
  • Faculty may find themselves in a conversation with public officials or business leaders where they could recommend your organization’s work.

How can nonprofits and NGOs network with university faculty and get on their radar for potential partnerships?

  • Look at course offerings of college and universities, and identify the faculty teaching courses that relate to your organization’s work. Build a database of people you want to contact; phone numbers and email addresses for most of these folks will be easy to find online, either on the college or university’s web site or through a Google or Bing search.
  • Look to see if faculty with which you want to connect has a Twitter feed and, if so, and it’s regarding their work, follow such. Same for a Facebook profile or a GooglePlus profile. Get to know more about their work through their updates. If the person posts something that relates to your work, reply to a post.
  • Read something by that faculty member in an academic journal (you can get access to this through your local library) or other publication.
  • Add appropriate faculty to your press release distribution list.
  • Invite the faculty you have identified to your open houses and public events. Send a personalized invitation, noting exactly why you are inviting this person to such. 
  • Invite the faculty you have identified to a meeting at your organization set up just for that person, or even to lunch. Let them know about your organization’s in-house expertise. If you already have partnership ideas, propose them. If you don’t, talk about what the faculty member’s courses and research have in common with your organization, and say that you would love to collaborate in some way but you aren’t entirely sure how.

It’s an ongoing cultivation process. You are building relationships, and that won’t come from just an email, a phone call or meeting face-to-face once. Colleges and universities are a HUGE resource right in your backyard – not just as one-day student volunteers, but as potential program and funding partners. Don’t wait for them to find you – seek THEM out!

Look what partnerships with universities can lead to:

Western Kentucky University Entrepreneurship students working to revitalize downtown businesses