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How To Work Successfully With Your US Affiliate

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Are you a nonprofit leader, fundraiser, or board member of a nonprofit or charity outside of the United States who partners with an American affiliate or is looking to launch a US arm?

Check out these tips to build a robust and mutually beneficial cross-border working partnership with your US affiliate and preempt unpleasant scenarios (including misunderstandings and differences, partnership break-ups, to at times nasty legal battles, unfavorable media coverage, and loss of top givers).

Foreign-based charities and their US partners must invest in

1-A careful evaluation and selection of your partners and representatives in the US, in particular, your founding board members and those representing your overseas charity on the US board.

2-A thoughtful and strategically crafted nonprofit’s IRS statement of purpose that states the relationship between the US nonprofit and your charity abroad: education, advocacy, grantmaking are often terms used to define the role of the American not-for-profit.

3-Educating both members of your foreign-based charities as well as the US nonprofit’s team and board frequently about nonprofit laws and regulations, the philanthropic culture, and fundraising environment in both countries.

4-In creating a team-centered culture by

  • promoting a culture of cross-border collaboration and transparency, and a culture of appreciation for what both teams on both sides contribute;

  • fostering a remote culture of collaboration and communication - so that it is not “just” the US charity that raises the dollars and the overseas NGO that spends it. Instead, both the US and overseas team agree to shared responsibilities and are committed to agreed-upon common goals.

  • planning regular visits of the US staff and fundraising teams to the home country of your charity, and if applicable, the country you do work in.

5-Detailed by-laws reflecting the unique partnership of two independent charitable organizations within the US legal framework, particularly, the board of directors’ responsibility for approving grants (funds) to your foreign charity.

6-Jointly developing a strategic plan for the US 501(c)(3) as well as the overseas charity; Setting objectives and metrics is equally important for the programmatic efforts and the fundraising program in the US and abroad.

7-Evaluation and assessments to understand (and improve on)

  • How your charity abroad and your US organization are doing, in particular, in terms of long-term impact, governance, financial health, and accountability

  • If you are meeting your objectives

  • If your grant-funded programs are achieving the promised impact

8-Binding legal agreements that

  • address critical organizational issues, such as responsibilities, information flow, lines of authority and organizational structure

  • outline how funds are being raised in the US, and which gifts are being accepted

  • define the mechanics of transferring funds from the US organization to the foreign organization

If you give thoughtful attention to developing an appropriate organizational framework and legal structure of raising and accepting funds in the United States, you will avoid pitfalls, be more effective and achieve your goals in a far more respectable and healthy way.

You will be able to inspire donors by your work and, at the same time, be respected for how you conduct business.

Tanja Sarett, MA, CFRE, CVF, is a global fundraising consultant, facilitator, and executive coach based in New York / New Jersey. She activates team-centered innovation and creative and synergistic solutions for visionary organizations and philanthropies. Tanja is an onsite and virtual facilitator, trainer and executive coach, an AFP Master Trainer and a 21/64 Multigenerational Giving Advisor. She brings to her work a wide range of collaborative and creative techniques from IDEO Design Thinking, Liberating Structures, the Technology of Participation, and the Agile community.

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