GoFundMe agrees to acquire Classy, unlocking new opportunities for nonprofits. Learn more.

Webinar: Nonprofit Partnerships and the Power of Collaboration


By Ellie Burke

Request a Demo

Learn how top nonprofits use Classy to power their fundraising.

Schedule a Demo
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ultimately no matter what cause sector you’re in, nonprofits in general are working towards a common end goal which is to solve problems and to make the world a better place. We’re really all in this together and it makes me think of the quote, ‘Rising water rises all ships.'” – Classy Account Manager Michelle Hansen

In a space that lacks widespread formal education opportunities for its professionals, the best way for social impact organizations to move forward is to learn from each other. In our recent webinar, we teamed up with Classy client Barbells for Boobs to discuss nonprofit partnerships and how the mindset is shifting from competing for dollars to working together towards the common goal of social betterment. Founder and CEO Zionna Hanson, “Z,” and President Robyn Bennett co-hosted with Account Manager Michelle Hansen and broke down the debated topic.

Barbells For Boobs

In 2009, Z’s best friend found an irregularity in her breasts and was denied services because she was only 26. Six months later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Motivated to effect meaningful change, Barbells for Boobs is dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer with an emphasis on women under 40 and men. To date they have provided 30,194 procedures, detected 199 cases of breast cancer and served 16,442 individuals. Their fundraising initiatives leverage athletic communities globally and combat the stigma that there is an age or gender requirement for breast cancer.

As their organization continues to scale, Barbells for Boobs recognizes how partnerships contribute to their success.

There’s not a lot of information out there on how to run nonprofits. Being able to be vulnerable and ask those very tough questions and say, ‘Hey, maybe I don’t know how to do this but I see another organization doing it really well,’ is a key to being a bigger and better organization.’” – Z

Apart from discussing the benefits of partnership and providing examples of what these partnerships look like, we also discuss how it’s not just partnerships around your cause that can be leveraged for success, it’s also partnerships across the nonprofit community that can help move things forward.

Here’s a sneak peak of our discussion:

Why Partner

Strategic partnerships between nonprofit organizations create value to both organizations in many ways, according to Forbes writer Geri Stengel.

Partnerships can:

  • Save costs
  • Support your programs
  • Strengthen the value proposition of each organization
  • Develop the management skills of each organization’s leadership
  • Create operational efficiencies

Barbells for Boobs has many different types of partners:

  • Partners they ask for specific advice
  • Partners who work toward the same goal
  • Partners unrelated to their cause
  • Partners that help expand their network through shared resources

Before creating a partnership, Barbells for Boobs recommends assessing the value of the relationship. To do this, Z suggests you look at what you’re investing in and consider the bigger picture.

Maybe an hour of my time about how we approach fundraising on Classy can actually draw a new platform for [another organization] and raise millions of dollars that will change [their cause].” – Z

With this point of view, Z sees Barbells for Boobs’ impact expanding beyond breast cancer to where they can be an organization that commits to social change for the entire world.

Why Partner Around Your Cause

“I don’t compete for donor dollars, I compete for the people that are fighting breast cancer, the people that are surviving, the people that we’ve lost. Robyn and I are very delicate in how we look at an opportunity working with another breast cancer organization in saying ‘what are they doing really well and how can what we do compliment what they are already doing, or how can we become a resource for one another.’ We’re not going to solve all breast cancer problems here are Barbells for Boobs. We know that it’s going to be collaboration amongst the entire industry of breast cancer in order to really create social change.” – Z

For effective partnership, it’s helpful to look at the full circle tied to your cause and the organizations that play a role in the various phases of the cycle.

For example, for breast cancer, different organizations focus their efforts on:

Prevention, Detection, Treatment, Survivorship

In order to form partnerships within your cause industry, consider how your organization addresses your cause and what gaps there might be in the assistance you provide. How could other organizations assist the same people you help in different ways?

It’s very flattering to hear that people want us to do more, but at the same time we need to stay laser focused on what it is that we do well and then unite ourselves with those other folks in the circle.” – Robyn

Why Partner Across the Nonprofit Community

Despite working for different causes, partnerships across the nonprofit industry can be very beneficial for your organization as well. For example, your organization may admire the practices or expertise of another organization and aspire to be effective in similar ways. Sometimes, understanding what makes other organizations so successful is as simple as reaching out to discover best practices.

Find your organization’s biggest weakness and start doing research on who does it best. After you do your homework, reach out to them and ask for their advice.” – Z

For example, Barbells for Boobs contacted charity: water to learn more about their operations. Z took the initiative to fly to New York and speak with a representative of their partnership team who willingly shared some of their best practices. Z also met with leaders of charities in the CrossFit community and helped to create the first CrossFit Charity Tank. By reaching out to the CrossFit Foundation, Z’s dream to pool together this community was realized through the support of Reebok and the CrossFit Foundation. In January 2015, 17 charities in the CrossFit space came together to get to know one another. They now stand as a connected community that can rely on each other for resources.

We all live busy lives, and members of the nonprofit community are no exception. It can be easy to say, or think, “they’re too busy to help me.” Resist the urge to assume no one has the time to help your organization and trust that members of the nonprofit community are there in the trenches with you trying to change the world for the better.

Every time I’ve reached out to a nonprofit, they’ve helped me. There’s that fear of ‘they’re not going to reach back to me, they’re not going to talk to me. I’m too small for them.’ They will give you the time.” – Z

Examples of Successful Partnerships in Action

Thanks to Barbells for Boob’s leadership and innovative stance on partnerships in the nonprofit industry, they have already created several successful relationships with other organizations.

Barbells for Boobs works with:

  • Everyday Warrior
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
  • Young Survival Coalition
  • Reebok and The CrossFit Foundation
  • Travis Manion

Watch the webinar below to find out how Barbells for Boobs started these mutually beneficial partnerships, how they leverage each one to better serve their cause, and how you can take similar steps to strengthen your organization.

Subscribe to the Classy Blog

Get the latest fundraising tips, trends, and ideas in your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing

You signed up for emails from Classy

Request a Demo

Learn how top nonprofits use Classy to power their fundraising.

Schedule a Demo

Pin It on Pinterest