Russell Dennis

  Russell Dennis


Relationships are the defining ingredient for the success of people and individuals. When it comes to charitable causes, the bond with supporters is more prominent than any other currency.

Purpose-driven people get up every day facing those in our society with the greatest needs daily. They combat poverty, health challenges, pollution, homelessness, animal cruelty, and the loss of culture every day. In view of these growing needs and the lack of resources, they find innovative ways to stretch limited resources in service to others. Not only that, they are masterful at rallying others to lend a hand when their backs are up against a wall!

The type of leadership and charisma required to rally strong support does not come out of a vacuum. It is the product of building strong relationships. This process often takes time. It begins with a sincere interest in others, followed by good old fashioned authenticity. We must be genuine to grow strong and lasting relationships.

Making relationships work means committing to long-term goals that create trust, value, and benefits for everyone. The connection should be based on common values and vision for success. This does not mean we agree on every small aspect of how to solve a problem or bring about a desired outcome, but agreement on WHY this result is necessary is very important.

As a nonprofit leader, ask what you can bring to the table. Going in with a service-first attitude and focus is counterintuitive in nonprofit circles. There is a scarcity mindset that is pervasive because so many of our 501(c)(3) charities are operating with budgets under $200,000. The other reality is that these organizations are made up of purpose-driven problem solvers who bring value and innovation to the tasks at hand. They have the skills, talents, knowledge, and experience needed to create a fundamental shift in the circumstances of people they serve.

Smaller agencies are working more closely with these people than larger, more affluent, nonprofits do. They understand where gaps exist in services needed and are more than willing to roll their sleeves up in many cases. As a leader of this type of agency, be transparent about your challenges and any gaps in your talent and resource pools. You can turn these into opportunities to work with others who have complementary resources to create measurable differences in the lives of people.

By offering to serve first and create wins for others, you can leverage opportunities to gain more support and create lasting partnerships over time. While concerns over lack of resources sometimes makes this approach scary, the truth is that nothing happens without asking for what you want. Some of the people and organizations you approach will say no. Turn these instances into opportunity by finding out what their objections are to working with you.

Have you answered all their questions? Are all the decision makers at the table? Are they afraid you will get more out of any arrangement than they will? Maybe they will not share their issues with you. Attempting to find out what makes them uncomfortable can help you adjust your approach next time or with other agencies. Relationship building can be a numbers game. We can’t be all things to all people, and sometimes we are just not a good fit for everyone we approach.

But any nonprofit can build relationships that add lasting value when it is true to the values it is founded upon and has a strong desire to serve others.


Russell Dennis is CEO of RD Dennis Enterprises, LLC. He is host of the Nonprofit Culture of Success Show and Co-host of Synervision Leadership Foundation’s Nonprofit Exchange Podcast. He creates customized tools that are easy to access, understand, and use to help social profits raise more funds and attract more support for their missions. You can find him at and at user name RmanRussDen on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Go to to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Don’t miss the next issue of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!

Join Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis and their guests on our weekly Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange at 2 pm Eastern time.
If you already have a nonprofit or are thinking of starting one, this will be very helpful. Put it on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!
The Nonprofit Exchange on Tuesdays at 2 pm ET has been quite beneficial for many participants and we have enjoyed sharing thoughts and tips for moving past the stuck places we all find in leading an organization to achieving its mission.
Learn more and access archives HERE.
As the famous British Composer and Conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams once said, “Music does not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” If you replace the word “Music” with the word “Leadership” or “Team” or “Strategy” etc., then we all give and receive value from others. That’s the spirit of the Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange encounters, sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’sCommunity for Community Builders.”

You can join the conversation on Zoom or watch on Facebook Live Video. It’s your choice. You can comment on Facebook and on the Zoom chat box on any device.

Put this on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!

We’ll “see” YOU on the call. Here’s to your greater success!

Leave A Comment