Building Effective Relationships
To inform ImpactRising, we wanted to dig deep and understand what make for effective working relationships between a nonprofit leader and a consultant, leading to greater success on the project. Between November 2012 and February 2013, Shiree Teng conducted ten interviews with consultant and nonprofit leader pairs to reflect on a project that they worked on together.
We heard a lot, and we learned a lot.
Below are themes and reflections from those interviews.
Qualities that Enhance Consultants and Nonprofit Leaders’ Partnership Success
- Be open and honest with yourself to allow for risk taking and vulnerability.
- Get ready for real change – in the organization, in your practice, in your assumptions. Be willing to really change.
- Strive for deep, personal connection based on shared values about the world. Really “get” one another in all of our humanity.
- Build in regular “How is it going?” feedback throughout the project. Set up an early warning system without waiting until the end of the project to make shifts and changes.
- Expect things to take longer than you think they will. Build in that contingency. Build in follow-up.
- Don’t try to squeeze in what you know will take an hour into 15 minutes.
- Have a Zen-like, beginner’s mind. Let go of perceived outcomes. Give new ideas and approaches a chance. Lean in when something’s uncomfortable. Be willing to suspend disbelief.
- Establish some principles by which you will work together. Regularly check in on, “Are we being true to those principles? If not, what needs to shift?”
- Gut check: “Do I like this person? Do our values align? Or am I just taking this project for the money? Am I just going through the motions because of my Board/funder?”
Nonprofits interviewed included global and national networks, direct service organizations, social justice advocacy and grassroots organizing groups. Capacity building projects included financial management; strategy formation; evaluation; communications and strategic uses of social media; coaching, and performance management.
Read the full report here > Interview Summary
Read the individual interviews that informed the summary > Interviews with Consultants and Nonprofit Leaders
Explore additional resources on how to build effective working relationships:
- Navigating Power Dynamics
- Assessing Progress
- Research on Relationships (Packard Goldmine Research findings)
- Working with Consultants Focus Group (read the discussion)