Organizational Partnering…Why?

Organizations love to partner. Partnering evokes community, good will, mutuality, expansion, and friendship. All good things. When your organization struggles in a fiercely competitive marketplace or crowded fundraising environment, we want to believe that good partnerning will mean strength in numbers, joining forces for greater good, and lots of synergy.

But there’s a lot of risk in partnering, too. I’m just saying.

Three questions to ask of any potential partnership:

  1. Is it missional? Do we share in common some portion of our respective missions? Are we meant to be together?
  2. Is it value-adding? Will the staff of each partner always be able to see how if we pull together, we’ll create value that wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t exist as strongly if we did not?
  3. Is it practical? Can we make this work? Or, will the staff responsible for implementing the partnership resent the imposition of yet another burdening responsibility? Will the partnership survive the agreement?

Partnerships can be a huge waste of time and other resources. But there are also some great examples of partnerships that work spectacularly. In fact, it may be a rule that partnerships either work way beyond expectations or well below them.

There are three reasons to partner:

  1. Access new markets or audiences for your products or messages. New territory to sell in, or new ears and eyes for marketing.
  2. Add value to an existing product or service. Bundling, new features, new components.
  3. Acquire investment capital – financing, human capital, inventory, etc. The partner gets a return on the investment as their value-add.

The really important thing is to look past the good will that exists during the discovery and honeymoon phases of the partnership. Will it last? Test the assumptions while you’re still feeling good and before things go sour. You’ll save a lot of personal and corporate stress.

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