Simply put, “civic reach” refers to your organization’s ability to develop, maintain, and grow relationships with individuals who have influence over resources and the flow of civic power across the sectors in which you operate.
It’s a concept honed and promoted by Community Partners President and CEO Paul Vandeventer, and it has become a rallying cry for both the culture we’ve developed here at Community Partners and in how we support others in building organizations that are influential and connected.
We have all seen how a grant proposal is received differently when you know the program officer who is reading it. How testimony shared at a legislative hearing is listened to more closely when you know the people sitting across from you. How meetings with busy people are more easily scheduled when you are friendly with the assistant. And how a request of any kind is more likely to be taken seriously where there is a personal connection.
This kind of relationship-building is often referred to as merely “networking” – but with no roadmap or goal it becomes something many people dread. At Community Partners, we approach civic reach in a much more intentional way. We’ve developed an easy tool called the Civic Power Grid® that can be used to assess the strength of relationships held across a variety of sectors by individuals or an organization overall. This helps identify gaps, target areas for growth and, ultimately, strengthens civil society.
We use this tool with our own staff, each of whom has a goal of reaching out to 2-4 people per quarter based on priorities they have set at the beginning of the year. This has greatly bolstered our own organizational civic reach, better connecting us to government, business and other identified sectors, and strengthening our community-building work.
In an article on the need for board members to be well connected across all sectors, Paul Vandeventer refers to civic reach as “the essential third leg of a nonprofit board’s sustainability platform,” alongside fundraising and governance. This has had particular resonance when included as part of a training we offer through the Annenberg Foundation’s Alchemy leadership program. And it’s an important component to how we guide our fiscally sponsored projects.
Click here to download the Civic Power Grid®.
To learn more about developing civic reach and using our Civic Power Grid®, contact Cynthia Freeman.