Partnering as a non-profit organization

There are many ways non-profit organizations can partner with other non-profits, for-profit companies or with government.
 
The simplest definition of partnership is two or more organizations working together to do something beneficial to each organization. The degree to which the organizations are invested in the agreement will determine where on the partnership continuum they fall. At the most superficial level, organizations may choose to partner through an agreement to share a resource such as office space or equipment. Moving along the continuum, organizations may form an alliance that involves working together on a specific project - for example, a joint marketing event. The deepest level of commitment is collaboration, when two organizations follow a planned strategy to carry out a program that works toward a shared mandate. While doing so, both organizations meet their individual mission and vision.
 
 
The Partnership Continuum showing increasing contact between organizationsFigure 1: The Partnership Continuum
 
 
Non-profits can partner by sharing:
      • space and infrastructure
      • human resources
      • marketing and advertising
      • staff and board member training
      • funding and/or fundraising
      • programming
 
The benefits of a successful collaboration may include:
      • shared knowledge and ideas
      • success with a project your organization could not do alone
      • preventing duplication of services
      • being more effective at lobbying or advocating on issues
      • better access to funding
      • developing a broader program
      • bringing new skills and capacity to your organizations
      • making your organization more sustainable
 
As you begin to establish the arrangement, the following resources may help increase the chances of a successful relationship that is beneficial to both partners.

Know your organization

A successful partnership requires each organization to know what they bring to the relationship and what they hope to gain from working together. Use the Organizational Assessment Tool (XLS 55KB) to help your organization evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and uncover opportunities for growth and areas for potential partnerships.
When stepping into a partnership, each organization should have a clearly defined mission, vision and set of values and these statements should be complimentary between the organizations. If the vision of one organization is contradictory to another, a partnership is not likely to succeed.

Put it in writing

A written agreement between two potential partner organizations can help define the expectations each organization has and what the partnership will look like. As board members or staff change, the partnership agreement will help to ensure the continuity of the partnership.

 

Other Related Links

For more information on partnerships and collaborations, what they mean and how to make them a success, visit these links below: