On one hand, partnering with another organization is one of the most powerful ways to put collective energy and resources behind a project or cause. What better way than to leverage multiple organizations’ various means to achieve what each of us may not be able to do on our own?
On the other hand, collaboration done improperly and too quickly can be a drain on your own organization’s staff, volunteers and resources, leading to unneeded stress and frustration on all sides of the partnership.
How can you best prepare your organization before partnering with another organization? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. What’s the purpose of this partnership?
This is a crucial question to answer for your organization and that’s why it’s the first one you should ask. If you can’t identify why the organization would even entertain this partnership, then it’s likely not a good one. This question helps you identify the why of the partnership. It should support your core mission/vision and your values. A beneficial partnership should help you achieve both of those things.
2. Are the two (or more) organizations a good match?
You’ve identified why you’re partnering, but now it’s time to ensure it’s a complementary partnership. Their mission, vision and values don’t have to be an exact match of your own, but they should be supportive and their connection to your organization should help to elevate you.
3. How will you define success?
Just like with any strategic plan or goals of your own organization, this partnership should have success metrics of its own. Will the partnership bring more members? Additional outside revenue? Help you achieve a legislative victory for your organization? Whatever it might be, be sure to set metrics that are measurable, realistic and set with a definitive time to measure them.
4. Do you have the resources to appropriately support the partnership?
Partnerships are rarely just in name only. Be sure before entering one that your organization is ready to support it appropriately. This means ensuring you have staff who can dedicate the needed time to meet the success metrics, provide financial support where needed and even the procurement of new procedures if needed.
5. Can you do a test-run of the partnership?
There’s no need to go from 0 to 100 right away. Ask the other organization if they are open to a pilot period of the partnership. The benefit of this is to identify what’s working well and what’s not. This allows course corrections to be made to prepare for a full roll-out, or an easy way to end the partnership if it isn’t working.
6. Can it be ended easily and without harming the relationship you’ve built?
You’ve likely entered into this partnership with some form of agreement (tacit or written). Before you sign off on anything, look at the ways in which you can leave this partnership. It may seem odd to think about the end before you even begin, but like any other contract you sign, you need to know your options. Having these in hand before you sign anything allows you to exit graciously and in good standing so you can preserve the good relationship you’ve started.
Collaboration doesn’t have to hard or stressful. Start yourself off with a good foundation by working through these questions and begin to develop strong partnerships that will allow your organization to achieve more than ever before.
To learn more about strategic planning for your organization, download our free e-book: How to Prevent Your Strategic Plan From Failing.