Monday, April 07, 2008

Partnering for Nonprofits - Some Thoughts on Nonprofit and Corporate Partners

Recently I had the pleasure of being the speaker at a meeting of the Central New Jersey Non-Profit Network Group. My topic was Win-Win Partnerships and today I’d like to share the gist of that talk.

What is Different About Partnering than Getting Funded?
When you partner, there has to be something in it for all the partners. You not only have to benefit your customers or people you serve you have to show a benefit for the partner. You have to share the good and the bad – the work, resources, glory. You have to be willing to compromise – you may not get to do things 100% your way.

Partnering is a team activity – you win if the team wins and you don’t win if the team doesn’t. Winning requires every member of the team to be committed to the success of the team – not just personal success. You need to consider the readiness of each organization and the individual participants in the partnership to be team players when assessing partnerships

Partnering with Other Nonprofits
Overall Benefits of Partnering with Other Nonprofits
1. Using and leveraging your own resources and strengths
2. Learning from the other organization's strengths
3. Operating more efficient programs
4. Operating more diverse programs
5. Developing new networks and new audiences
6. And of course.....Funders LOVE partnering.

In my talk, I went on to provide some real examples and discuss the critical success factors for the projects. I also covered getting started with partnering by trying out projects such as joint marketing, advocacy for common goals and community volunteer recruitment and recognition. This will give you the opportunity to check out potential partners and who are the people you would like to work with because of their skills, organization, reliability, expanded network, etc.

Partnering with Corporations
If you are interested in pursuing corporate partnerships do your homework first. Start by visiting Independent Sector
and review everything there on this subject. Partnering with corporations is different from partnering with other nonprofits and they each have their own quirks. Understanding the terms of the deal and communication are very important – even if you are a small local organization. The more you have both clarified your expectations in advance the better off both sides will be.

Some key considerations:
1. Ensure that the reputation of the partner is a good one and one that you would want your organization to be associated with
2. Get legal advice and make sure that your organization will not be liable for anything that the corporate partner uses your name for.
3. Have a written agreement which specifies what you are responsible for such as providing written materials, publicity of events, volunteers at events
4. Have approval rights for any written copy about your organization
5. Do NOT endorse any product. Patnership does not mean that your organization endorses a product and service.

Again I went on to talk abut some specific examples – both national and local in nature.

In summary, the keys to successful partnering are straightforward:
1. Make sure the partnership is compatible with your mission, and even better, enhances fulfillment of your mission.
2. Consider all the implications of partnership carefully and make sure it works for you and your partners – commitment to teamwork and common goals, benefits for both parties. Patience, Communication, and Compromise are all required
3. The project should be well managed and conduct periodic project evaluations. Develop Lessons Learned and take corrective action

I invite you to share your experiences, knowledge and lessons learned about partnering with replies to this post and I remind you that I do offer keynote speaking and this is one of the topics available.

Marion Conway Consulting

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