Extraordinary boards build strong partnerships with stakeholders: Part 2

Part two of building solutions together is a great way to increase support for the work of any organization.

Building partnerships was the focus of the first article on this “Component of Extraordinary Governance” called “responsive and accountable partnerships with stakeholders.”

Here, the focus shifts to the stakeholders you are trying to build the partnership with. Stakeholders include anyone who has the ability to affect the work of the organization, or who is affected by it.  It is important to include funders, staff, board members, suppliers, and others who contribute to the ability of the organization to achieve its mission.

It’s typical to think of people who benefit from the services of an organization when we talk about those affected by the organization, but it also includes staff, board members, and often the entire community where the work is being done. Most mission statements, including both nonprofits and governments, tend to focus on specific populations, but are ultimately working to make the entire community a better place.

Thus, stakeholders can be a very broad group of people with diverse experiences and ideas. If those ideas are gathered effectively, strong solutions supported by a wide variety of people can be the result. A stronger level of support for the work is nearly always the result when stakeholders are included in creating solutions. Simply put, if individuals have a role in creating the solution, they will then be stronger supporters of that solution, and will work harder to see it succeed.

Good communication, along with shared decision-making, helps to develop this high level of support and ownership. Decision-making at the highest level possible needs to also be combined with clear communication about why certain decisions have to be made by the board and can’t be handed off to others. Follow-through to include people at the level that has been promised, and utilizing their ideas in creating solutions and plans for implementation are also critical to building and maintaining the levels of trust necessary for sound, long-lasting partnerships. 

Responsible and accountable partnerships, with shared power for decision-making and people who can affect and/or are affected by the work of any organization, goes a long way toward building relationships that will carry the work of the organization, or government, to long-term success.

Read more about the Components of Extraordinary Governance in this recent article, and this one from 2014, on the Michigan State University Extension news website. 

Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy provide educational programs for government officials and citizens regarding many aspects of local and tribal governments in Michigan. Please contact the author at amrhein@anr.msu.edu for more information.

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