Has this happened to you? You’ve been deeply engaged in a series of discussions with a great new potential partner. All is going incredibly well: competitive advantages have been clearly articulated; the mutual benefit to collaboration is obvious to both parties; all lights are green and you are eager to move on past talk and into action. Then, you realize you will have to capture the complexities of your marathon conversations into written form to jumpstart the official partnership and set you up operationally for success — but, you don’t know the best way to get started.

We at Conveners.org encourage peer sharing of tips and best practices of this sort, and last month hosted a webinar to provide the space for conveners to share their partnership success stories and challenges, and to learn from one another how to more effectively engage partners. During the call, the following were identified as the five foundational elements needed to structure effective partnerships from the start:

  • Time: One best practice is to agree on the timeline for collaboration; articulate due dates for specific deliverables, and which organization is responsible for the deliverable.  Gantt Charts and similar project management tools can help visualize the timeline.
  • Money: Confirm how much funding will be required of each partner and how much money, if any, each partner is contributing. This includes in-kind donations and venue contributions.
  • Talent: Discuss if a specific expertise is required to fulfill the partnership. This can include graphic design, software development, accounting, legal services, or other special expertise. Understand whether a very specific staff member will be required to dedicate time to the partnership.
  • Brand Association: Identify how each partner will use the other partner’s brand. This is especially relevant with the use of brand logos for events and event promotion. Try to discuss this in advance of an actual event.
  • Exposure and Community Outreach: Agree to what, if any, community outreach or media exposure is included in the partnership. It can be critical that you get the word out to enough people about a particular event; setting up these parameters ahead of time will save you time in the long run.

In addition to these tips to kick off an effective partnership, the group collaboratively produced a partnership agreement template (MOU) that can be used as a starting point by anyone in the community to guide effective collaborations between organizations. The end result will also be freely accessible through creative commons.

Do you have tips on how to best set up a new partnership?  Let us know by posting below.

Image Credit: Professor Ruiz via Flickr