Establishing strategic partnerships is key for any business, but especially for non-profit organizations looking to address complex issues in the community they live in. Understanding how partnerships can strengthen your business and organization is key for every leader, especially in Brevard County where there are more than 2,000 registered non-profits – being able to show potential donors that you are fulfilling a need in the market and not creating a duplication of services where there might not be a need is important.
In a Harvard Business Review article on how to strike effective alliances and partnerships, author of the book MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead, professor at Harvard Business School and chair and director of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Rosabeth Kanter outlines what she calls the “Eight I’s that Make We.” Here are a few examples of those factors and how they can work when aligning your organization with another.
– Interdependence: According to Kanter, the strongest alliances are those between organizations that are different in some respects and need each other to carry out a task. For example, the Street to Home Movement, the coordinated effort addressing chronic homelessness in Melbourne, has established strategic partnerships with organizations like the Daily Bread and South Brevard Sharing Center. While all these organizations are somewhat competing for the same donors, they are all address income insecurity and homelessness in different ways, because they share clients the most productive way of making sure all needs are addressed is to have a shared flow of intake, information, and to create processes in a collaborative way that works for all systems in place. In addition, when talking to with potential donors, these organizations are able to show a comprehensive approach to addressing a very complex social problem.
– Investment: Contributing to your partner’s success is a sign of commitment. Each year, Melbourne Main Street signs an agreement with the Downtown Community Redevelopment Advisory Board, part of the City of Melbourne, to carry out revitalization efforts in Downtown Melbourne. This agreement not only comes with financial support to help us carry out those tasks, but with a commitment to each other to work together in a collaborative manner to achieve similar goals: a vibrant Downtown Melbourne. This partnership is the foundation of everything we do Downtown, and we take great pride in nurturing and protecting that relationship. The investment the City and the Advisory Board makes in Melbourne Main Street is not only a sign of commitment to the organization, but to the city as a whole.
– Integrity: Trust is everything. Be proactive, protective, and open with your partnerships. Once the trust is lost, it is very hard to get back. If you make a mistake, be open and honest about that mistake and why it happened. On the same note, understand that mistakes will happen. Working through those obstacles is easier when there is a foundation of trust and respect.
Kanter also states that if that the partnership must have a strategic significance or don’t do it. These partnerships take a lot of time to establish, but also time and energy to maintain – be selective and strategic. Take an hour each week to sit down and research new organizations and companies in your community and see if their goals align with yours and how you may be able to benefit each other. You may be surprised!
One of my proudest moments as an Executive Director of Melbourne Main Street is seeing different groups come together to work on issues Downtown. On a monthly basis we have a group that comes together and sitting at that table are city staff, officers from the Melbourne Police Department, nonprofit organizations addressing homelessness Downtown, and community members from the surrounding area sitting at one table problem solving. We all bring different resources to the table, and we all are focused on the issues at hand, not the promotion of our individual interests.
Jarin R. Eisenberg is the executive director of Melbourne Main Street.
Columnist series is sponsored by weVENTURE, powered by the Florida Institute of Technology. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weVENTURE.org or call 321-674-7007.