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Alliances_horizAlliances, partnerships and collaborations, what do these words mean for nonprofits? While each of these words has a slightly different meaning, ultimately, they mean working together. Does your nonprofit have any alliances or partnerships? If not, should they develop this type of mutually beneficial relationship?

Most nonprofits and ministries begin on their own….as the result of a vision of one individual or a group of individuals. However, once they begin operating, they realize that they could be more effective if they worked with others who are doing similar work. Additionally, organizations are often able to stretch limited budgets and avoid duplication of resources. When two or more organizations come together to solve an issue, or meet a need, there is more strength and credibility; when organizations join efforts, others respect their strength.

The requirements for successful partnerships include:

  • Commitment to shared goals
  • Jointly developed structure to the collaboration
  • Shared responsibility
  • Mutual authority and accountability for success
  • Sharing of resources, risks, and rewards

In an ideal world, partnerships and alliances would work out perfectly every time! Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There are times when one organizations feels like they “are getting the short end of the stick.” Winston Churchill once said, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and this is fighting without them.” While not quite true, this is why it is important to carefully select those you join forces with.

Does the organization you are partnering with share the philosophies of your organization? Are they willing to share, or do they want control of everything? What is their reputation in the community like? Will their reputation hurt or help your organization? Are their finances in order? If the answers to these questions can be answered satisfactorily, your organization may want to partner or collaborate with another organization.

It is important to note that not every partnership needs to be sealed with an in-depth contractual agreement. As a matter of fact, it may be helpful to test the relationship with a small informal alliance. If everything goes as desired for both parties, you may then want to cement the relationship with an agreement. A word of advice….be certain that roles, responsibilities and expectations for both organizations are spelled out. As you write the agreement be sure it contains objectives for the relationship as well as a plan to dissolve the agreement in the event that things don’t work out as planned.

Partnerships can help you stretch limited resources or even expand your services to meet the needs of those you serve. However, as with any relationship, go into the situation with your eyes wide open and realistic expectations.

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