Are Your Partnerships Failing?

The year 2012 is slipping by.  Before it goes much further it’s time to do a recap to see how we did on developing new partnerships. I’ve spent the past 6 months working with a number of leading nonprofits across the Midwest helping them on their special projects. What I discovered is that almost every one of these nonprofits has mixed results in developing successful partnerships. I thought it might be a good time to review what makes a successful collaboration.  I learned how to build successful strategic alliances between corporate and nonprofit organizations from The Drucker Foundation many years ago. I still use many of their questions when helping my clients decide if they are ready to create a successful partnership with their corporate partners. Let’s do a quick check on how partner ready you are.

1. Is there a connection between your purpose and people with their corporate mission and goals?

2. Are you clear on what the purpose of the alliance would be?  How does this line up with your organization’s strategic plan? What do both partners want out of this partnership? Are both partners clear on the purpose of this collaboration?

3. Does this partnership advance your mission, vision, and values?  How does this alliance advance both partners’ long term strategies?

4. Does this partnership create value for all stakeholders involved? Successful alliances and partnerships create a win for all stakeholders. How does this potential pairing create synergy not only for both partners but to the markets you serve?

5. Are you comfortable communicating both good and bad news to each other? How will you make sure that both partners are involved in communicating with each other?  Defining your expectations from the start creates a stronger bond during challenging times of the collaboration.  Communication bottlenecks cause over 50% of the partnerships I work with to break down.

6. Are both partners committed to continual learning? Successful alliances must continue to evolve and grow if they hope to succeed in challenging economic environments.  Learning how to work together takes time and resources from both partners for an alliance to succeed.

7. Are you committed to making sure this partnership is a success? Many partners fall in love at the beginning but don’t have the long term commitment to make sure it works out well for both partners.  Your best partnerships are entered into knowing that each partnership has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges but, with work, it will succeed.

Take time today to evaluate your partnerships to see how they do on this evaluation. If you answer yes to less than five of these questions, your partnership could be at risk. If you have a score of less than three you might want to consider dissolving your partnership.

I understand that we’ve only briefly covered the questions today but over the next several months we will discuss each of these questions and how to build stronger strategic alliances and partnerships for your organization. If you can’t wait or would like more information, you might want to check out the Meeting the Collaboration Challenge workbook by the Drucker Foundation at Amazon.Com or Barnes & Noble.  If your partnerships are stalled you can contact me at  I’d also love to talk with you about your success in partnerships and we could share your successes in a future article on Market Leadership Journal.

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