Engaging Your Community Together: The Power of Creating and Maintaining Strategic Partnerships

strategic partnerships

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

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:

  1. Help you understand your partnership’s risk profile
  2. Analyze crucial risks
  3. Decide how to mitigate risks
  4. 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:

  1. Identify the KPIs, impact targets, and the range of M&E activities
  2. Develop a system to collect data and information within the range of M&E activities
  3. Collect data and document inputs, outputs, and outcomes
  4. 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.

Low Budget? No Problem! How to Market on a Budget

As a small business owner or nonprofit founder, you’ve probably discovered that marketing is an essential part of your strategic business plan. You’re probably also aware of how marketing costs can add up when positioning your brand to maximize online exposure. If this automatically creates anxiety for you, don’t worry. We have you covered!

Whether you have a large marketing budget and ample time on your hands, or are just doing the best with the resources you have, we have several proven (and easily implemented) marketing tips that you can use to boost conversions, connect with your audience, and save you a pretty penny.

Implement a Content Marketing Plan

Content is king in the marketing space. As the great Seth Godin put it, “Content Marketing is the only marketing left”. There is power in the connectivity created through targeted and strategic content. Presenting rich and relevant content about your product or services to your targeted audience can greatly increase your marketing mileage. Marketing is not just about pitching or landing a sale; it is about telling a story, your story. As mentioned in our e-book “The Art of Storytelling”, by engaging your client base – your audience – with compelling stories, you will turn detached potential leads skimming across your marketing materials into devoted customers who engage, share, and promote your content. Also, with every piece of content written and shared, always include a call to action (CTA) statement or button that converts.

Make Social Media Your Bestie

Let’s take a test! Pull out your phone (if you’re reading this from your mobile, you’ve already passed step 1!). Now, look at the apps on your phone. Without thinking too deeply, open the first social media app you notice on your screen. Congrats! You are one of the 3.2 billion active social media users, which is approximately 42% of the world’s population.

Social media is hands down one of the most effective ways to interact with your target audience. With relevant content built into a strategic social media plan/calendar, engagements with prospective clients can enhance your digital presence and build brand trust.

Just like in any digital marketing activity, content planning is key to a successful social media campaign. There are many [free] automation tools that schedule and publish posts on multiple social media accounts. These tools also provide analytical data and custom reports that help to improve your engagements and overall strategy. At some point, when you are ready to take it up a notch financially, you can boost your posts by taking a stab at paid social ads, intended to increase your reach.

Embrace Email Marketing

Email has been around for decades, but it would be a mistake to write off its power as a marketing tool. In the Stone Ages of 2001 (the same year Apple introduced the first iPod), marketers were forced to cold email prospects one by one in hopes of converting them into sales. Subsequently the same year, MailChimp was founded, and, the amazing world of email marketing tools and automation software was born. With just a few imports and clicks, bulk emails that are personalized, trackable and intimate are generated and sent to all subscribers on your mailing list, saving much of your time and increasing your brand presence. But you probably know this.

Still not convinced? Here are three more reasons:

  • 3.7 billion email users globally
  • 86% of professionals say email is preferred form of communication
  • 80% of email users check on mobile devices

We can learn through funneling, testing, and tracking just about everything it takes to technically optimize our audience’s response to our emails.

Create and Share Videos

Most people can process only a certain amount of text information each day.

Users scrolling through a page often gloss over words only to stop and watch a shared video, which can be less strenuous and more entertaining. Social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram have made video marketing very affordable with the “live” button feature. Simply hit the button and start broadcasting! Introduce yourself, your brand, and share your message with a world (including a CTA of course).

Get Serious About Your Online Reputation

There’s no business as good as the word of mouth.

Establishing key connections and building a strong external network can do wonders. Ask your clients write testimonials/review on the wonderful service(s) you’ve provided them. By adding these to your website, Google My Business page, or other online channels, others will gain confidence in your brand and will be more willing to seek your products/services.

Being confident in your organization’s direction is key to a successful marketing program no matter what your budget is. You have to start somewhere, right? Taking advantage of the open source tools and software in the market might just be a good starting point. Converted by your message, your client base will want to share what they’ve found.

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