Partnerships are a cornerstone of community outreach and engagement. When two or more organizations cohesively work together towards a common goal, greater presence and impact can occur. However, building a successful partnership requires organizations to strategically engage their communities together. To do so, organizations must learn how to utilize their strengths and effectively align with their strategic partners to serve their purpose. Doing so ensures your organization and its strategic partners have done their best to meet their goals on a global scale.
Engaging Your Community Together: The Power of Creating and Maintaining Strategic Partnerships
1. Institute your organization’s internal goals and objectives
You have to identify your organization’s problems before you can decide which partnership to pursue. First and foremost, developing and examining your organization’s internal goals and objectives will help determine which goals to establish within the partnership. Brainstorming with your team to determine the goals, objectives, interests, and motivations behind the partnership reduces the use of resources and potential risks involving your organization in the partnership. It also increases your success rate in developing a plan that aligns with the expectations of the partner organization and your target group.
2. Analyze potential strategic partnerships
Conducting due diligence before engaging with potential partners will help your organization know your internal goals and objectives and those of your potential partners. Due diligence involves investigating potential partners with an audit. Before engaging with a potential partner organization, your organization must first develop its internal goals and objectives and then assess your potential partners. Designing your first partnership plan and asking your stakeholders for their feedback on your design will help your organization to decide whether or not to form the partnership. If you’re dead set on pursuing the partnership, your organization needs to formalize the partnership document or business case. A business case is a written document, short verbal agreement, or presentation that explains the reasoning behind starting a project or task.
3. Develop a business case
Developing a business case provides an avenue for the partnering decision-makers to discuss the coalition and objectives of the partnership with transparency. The business case defines the partnership goals, objectives, and budget for resources or returns on investment (if any). It also may include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used to track the progress of the partnership’s goals and objectives. It’s vital to keep your business case up-to-date and timely as it describes the partnership relationship for all parties involved.
A business case describes and involves:
- The purpose, target audiences, objectives, and goals of the partnership
- The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the partnership
- The players involved in the partnership, including the target audience
- Budgeting for resources or returns on investment
- Quantitative and qualitative benchmarks
After developing a business case, delegate the roles and responsibilities for each partnering organization.
4. Determine the roles and responsibilities
Determining the roles and responsibilities within the partnership will ensure every partnering organization is doing its part. Using a governance structure describes what each organization is expected to achieve in the partnership. It creates a positive relationship between partners, as well as identifies stakeholders. Most notably, it can serve as a guiding and efficient organizational document should a challenge within the partnership arise.
Typically in a governance structure, depending on the level of need of the partnerships, there are usually two to three levels of groups:
- The Strategic Group or Governance Group comprises representatives from all partner organizations involved and is responsible for achieving high-level decision-making on the overall objectives of the partnership.
- The Partnership or Project Group includes a project manager from each organization. In addition to completing set tasks, the project manager is responsible for managing the project plan.
- The Implementing Group involves representatives from all partner organizations. This group implements the activities and deliverables within the project plan and reports back to the Project Group. At this level, each partnership delivers its agreed-upon work.
Once you’ve determined the governance structure of your organization, mitigate the risks and conflicts associated with the partnership.
5. Mitigate the risks and conflicts
Mitigating the risks and conflicts of your partnerships increases the likelihood of achieving your mutual goals and objectives. It also improves the confidence and trusts your stakeholders and partners have in your organization.
Risk and conflict mitigation is a vital tactic in creating powerful partnerships. It should be assessed during the partnership due diligence before your organization has met with the potential partners and also during the partnership process.
A risk assessment can:
- Help you understand your partnership’s risk profile
- Analyze crucial risks
- Decide how to mitigate risks
- Mitigate your risks
Including your organization’s community during the risk assessment provides transparency for all parties involved. There is also power in numbers, so incorporating and also engaging your community, especially your partners, will improve the goals and objectives of your partnership.
6. Engage your community
Paying attention to your community, especially your stakeholders and your target audience, is crucial to engaging your community. If you don’t water and sunbathe your houseplants, eventually they’ll die. Similarly, if you don’t interact with your audience, your partnership and even your organization may cease to exist. You have to engage your community to know what they want and need from your organization in order for your partnership to thrive.
Organizations and their partnerships can engage their community simply by talking to them. A study from the Royal Horticultural Society found that talking to houseplants helps them grow faster. Likewise, conducting surveys, interviews, briefings, meetings in groups or one-on-one, town hall meetings, etc. will help to grow your organization as well as your partnership and its goals. Because engaging your community is also crucial to your organization’s flourishing, organizations should also engage their community in the decision-making processes, such as in the governance structure.
7. Manage the resources
Achieving your partnership’s objectives may be impossible if your partnership isn’t managing its resources, such as access, data, finance, and human resources.
Resource management helps build powerful partnerships through:
- Developing documentation of the resources used to support the achievement of objectives and establish trust between partners and third-party funders
- Ensuring transparency related to financial agreements in the partnership, including which partnership contributed which resources and incurred costs
- Providing a fair division in the distribution of costs and resources between the partners
In addition, partnerships should make sure to incorporate a resource management plan that quantifies the resources into monetary terms. That way it is much easier to manage a budget.
8. Evaluate the efficacy of joint partnership
Along with resource management, organizations must evaluate the efficacy of the partnership. Partnerships are made powerful through resource management, a vital benchmark within a partnership’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework. The M&E framework fosters successful partnerships because it monitors project progress, resources, and risk. It also encourages learning within the partnership, and, most importantly, it creates and supports public accountability within the partnership.
Organizations in a partnership should utilize these M&E framework key steps to:
- Identify the KPIs, impact targets, and the range of M&E activities
- Develop a system to collect data and information within the range of M&E activities
- Collect data and document inputs, outputs, and outcomes
- Analyze and evaluate the data outcomes against KPIs and impact targets
Furthermore, organizations should evaluate not only their partnership projects but the partnership itself. Evaluating the partnership can improve the relationship between partners, provide recommendations for changes to roles and responsibilities within the partnership, and facilitate discussions to prevent potential disagreements in the future.
If this guide wasn’t enough to drive you down the road to developing your powerful partnership, our strategists at PivotPath can help you reach them. Contact us for a FREE strategy session.