Many organizations fall into the trap of trying to do too many things, especially at the same time. They try to be everything to everyone, and in the end, the organization waters down its message and leaves everyone involved unsatisfied. That is why there has been many pushes in the past decade or so to specialize and find a niche. In order to fulfill your mission though, you may need other goods and or services that you can provide, but do not play to your strengths. This is the perfect scenario in which to specialize.
Why Create a Partnership
Partnerships allow your social venture to specialize in what they are good at doing. By "outsourcing" other tasks, your organization is able to leverage the talents, skills, and resources of another organization in a way that furthers your mission more than if you had tried to accomplish the task internally. On the flip side, the exact same thing should be said about the partner organization and the value they receive from your organization. It can not and should not be a one way street.
How do I Choose Partners
- Develop a List of Things Your Organization Needs - This list should be as comprehensive as possible and detail everything at every stage.
- Determine What Your Core/Key Strengths Are - There are certain things that are absolutely fundamental to your organization that should never be outsourced, and then there are things that your organization should simply be strengths that can be leveraged. For example, if you are a test prep company trying to reach out to low income students, your core competency is to create a great test prep program. Your other needs that can be outsourced are finding low income students, locating places to train them, and even providing tutors if your organization only focuses on the materials.
- Look for Organizations with Similar Goals - By finding organizations that also benefit from your program, you can create partnerships that are a win-win for both parties.
- Be Selective - Once your organization agrees to partner with another organization, it is up to you to fulfill your end of the bargain and if the other side starts having difficulty living up to their end of the agreement, you have to find ways of working through the difficulties. This is why it is extremely important for an organization to be selective in its partnerships.
- Develop Mutual End Goals - You should be thinking about this in the previous two steps, but once you have chosen your partner and are in formal discussions, it is important to start on common ground and determine through collaboration how both organizations can be best served.
- Add Value - The old maxim of underpromise and overdeliver fits here as well in that by creating positive experiences with the other organization involved, you develop a strong ally that can help in times your organization needs it or when you are looking to expand your operations.
- Evaluate and Iterate - Once a plan has been implemented and executed, it is time to both go back to the drawing board and talk about what worked, what didn't worked, what lessons should be considered for next time, and what things were unexpected. At this point, both organizations can choose to go their own way or continue their partnership.
The value of partnerships comes from the synergy that develops from good working relationships. Developing strong, strategic partnerships is a lot like team building, and as long as the two organizations trust one another, they have a strong base from which to operate, execute, and achieve together. The end result is always more than what either organization could have accomplished independently, and is exactly why you should specialize and develop partnerships.