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A New Way Nonprofits and Government Are Partnering for Social Change

Informal partnerships are proving to be an effective way for government agencies and nonprofit organizations to work together for the community’s benefit.

Government agencies and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) often have similar goals: to help people live better and to help communities thrive. Limited resources and bureaucratic hurdles often make effective cooperation difficult, but there may be a solution. In communities across America, NPOs and government agencies are forgoing complicated contractual agreements and are instead working together on an informal basis.

What Are the Benefits of Government Agencies and NPOs Working Together Informally?

It may seem old-fashioned, but the informal “handshake” agreements between government agencies and NPOs are creating new opportunities to more effectively address the specific needs of communities. Occurring mostly on the municipal level, these informal agreements allow a partnership to form between the government, the NPO, and the community. These partnerships are in contrast to contractual agreements, which make NPOs subservient to the government and a de facto government presence in the community.

A New Way Nonprofits and Government Are Partnering for Social Change

In the past, government agencies believed—despite NPOs’ knowledge and connection to the local community—that they couldn’t provide effective services without direct oversight. But, as recent research by Scott Pozil and Anne Hacker shows:

NPOs have demonstrated that they are community players who can make things happen independent of local government resources or assistance, but they also believe that collaborating with local governments is much more impactful in bringing about positive social change.1

The competency of modern NPOs coupled with the public resources and assistance programs of government agencies allow informal partnerships to work. But only if one key element exists: Trust.

How Does Trust Affect Informal Relationships Between the Government and NPOs?

One of the key findings of Pozil and Hacker’s research is the role trust plays in the success of informal relationships between government agencies and NPOs. On one end of the partnership, NPOs can use their existing relationships in the community to help government agencies build trust among residents who have a negative view of using government assistance. On the other end of the partnership, trust between government agencies and NPOs allows for an honest exchange of information and permits quick action from both parties. If NPOs are going to retain the autonomy that makes them effective, and if government agencies are going to provide resources smartly and swiftly, both sides have to be certain that the other side is acting responsibly and competently.

In short, trust removes the uncertainties that can complicate or even prevent efforts to create social change. But trust doesn’t come easily. As Pozil and Hacker found, building trust takes time and a willingness to be flexible, admit error, and persist through difficulties. Fortunately, government agencies and NPOs all across America are doing just that. And it’s creating successful partnerships that are helping communities thrive.

How Can You Help Create Social Change?

If you want to help either government agencies or nonprofits deliver services to communities, there are two degree options you may wish to consider: a Master of Public Administration (MPA degree) and an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership.

The MPA degree is an advanced public administration degree that can help you gain the skills you need to start or advance a number of careers focused on social change. In fact, a Master of Public Administration can help your career whether you’re running a local government agency; starting a nonprofit organization; managing a nonprofit organization; or looking to excel in your current public administration job, nonprofit marketing job, or other job focused on helping communities.

An MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership degree program can help you gain the critical skills you need to lead diverse and complex nonprofit organizations, and can help you lead successful fundraising efforts.

If you’re concerned about fitting an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership or MPA program into your schedule, consider online education. Through an online degree program, you can complete the majority of your coursework right from home. Plus, an online master’s degree program allows you to be in charge of your schedule. Rather than having to attend classes at a set time, an online education program gives you the opportunity to attend class at whatever time of day and week is best for you.

Informal partnerships are changing nonprofit management and public administration. When you take advantage of online learning, you can earn an MPA degree or MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership and put yourself in position to help create social change.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering Master of Public Administration (MPA) and MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,