“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,” said Helen Keller, American author and activist. This quote leaves me wondering why so many organizations are trying to do it alone.
Partnership development can be one of those ambiguous buzzwords that many people don’t quite have a firm understanding of. Even when people know what it is, they often don’t act on it, choosing instead to maintain the status quo.
In its rudimentary form, a partnership is a relationship between two or more organizations based on the assumption that they will be more successful by joining together than they will be on their own.
Follow this simple, six-step approach to apply partnership development to benefit your organization and yield results.
- Determine Your Needs: The first place to start in partnership development is understanding the needs of your organization. Ask yourself what you want from a partnership. Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to analyze what programs or initiatives will best be enhanced by a strategic partnership.
- Identify Strategic Partners: Identifying the right partner(s) is essential. Has the organization been involved in supporting similar programs or initiatives in the past? What is the capacity of this organization and does it have resources to contribute? Take the time to consider if there is an advocate for your organization who can provide an introduction to key players within the potential partner organization. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box and list organizations that are unpredicted or unexpected. Learn as much as you can about the potential organization and get familiar with what it does and how it does it.
- Have an Initial Outreach: Initial outreach to your potential partner should begin with a brief introduction of your organization, program initiatives, goals and objectives. Align the mission, culture and perspective of your organization to the potential partner and explain why you are reaching out to them at this time. You are getting to know the organization and the organization is getting to know you.
- Make a Clear and Specific “Ask:”Your goal is to arrange a face-to-face meeting if possible, where you can state your case and gain the organization’s support. Make it easy for the potential partner and have a task-oriented outline of what you are hoping to receive from the partnership. The “ask” should give options for how the partner can collaborate with your organization on specific programs or initiatives. Come prepared with comprehensive information on costs, return on investment and other things the partner might want to know.
- Follow up, Come to an Agreement and Put it in Writing:After making the “ask,” follow up with the partner to come to an agreement. This should be a mutually beneficial agreement. Listen to what the partner wants in return and make sure they know the benefits of joining with your organization. Write up an agreement that specifies exactly what you can expect from each other. Include details such as timeline, key players, measurement of goals, and evaluation of the partnership’s success.
- Nurture the Relationship:
- Building trust between partners requires time. Keeping the lines of communication open, informing your partner how resources are being used, and demonstrating impact will increase confidence that your organization achieved what you said you would do. Express gratitude to the partner by sending thank-you notes and including them in significant and exciting accomplishments of your organization. Saying “thank you” can go a long way!
Forming and fostering partnerships among a variety of different sectors can increase the sustainability of your programs and initiatives, maximize your resources and broaden your impact.
So next time you hear the words “partnership development,” I hope you will feel confident to join together and do so much more for your organization.