Upgrade Your Partnerships

February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Do you depend on another organization to help you fulfill your mission? Most of us do, in some way.

It may be as simple as the high school's community service program sending you 20 volunteers every semester. Or maybe you get to use meeting space for free at the nonprofit across town.

This wonderful arrangement probably came about because of people. Two people who knew and trusted one another agreed to work together. A quick email or phone call can accomplish a lot and can fill a need quickly.

Good for you!

Does anybody else at your organization know about this relationship? Is it documented anywhere besides somewhere in your email inbox? Would it keep operating smoothly if one of you suddenly became ill or changed jobs?

Once a collaborative effort grows from a one-time favor into something more long-term, it's time to make the relationship more formal. This does not have to be complex or time consuming.

Great First Step
One giant step forward would be to just create a document that lists all of your partners and what each does for the other. Write up a memo listing how the partnership works. "We get to use their board room once a month, and we promote their services via our newsletter." Simple.

Then share it. With your team or on the organization's shared drive. With your boss. Whoever needs to know what to do if you got beamed to Mars tomorrow.

Second Step
Internal documentation is great and can avoid a lot of train wrecks. Can you take it one step further? Can you get your partner to sign this memo? Include the contact person at both organizations and have both organizations sign them for their files.

Bonus if you can estimate the dollar value of each contribution. You know why, right? Yep. Then you can count that dollar value as match in appropriate grant proposals.

Gold Standard
If there is actual money changing hands, as in a grant situtation, or if one or more partners has significant responsibilities, get out there and execute a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This doesn't have to be scary and all legalese. But MOUs with enough detail can help avoid a lot of misunderstandings.

You can Google sample MOUs or ask fellow grant writers for good examples. Most of us love to share. And watch for the Writing to Win Federal Grants Workbook, coming later this year from CharityChannel press. We stuffed several model MOUs into the workbook for you so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

We want to hear your stories of great partnerships and ones that fell apart. If we use your story in our book, we'll send you a free copy hot off the presses.

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