How to Solve Partnership Problems Before They Happen

Partnerships created with the intent of making an impact are complex. Multi-sector partnerships or partnerships formed with a variety of partners representing different sectors are increasingly common ways to make an impact at the community level. That means partners come together with different values, experiences, and motivations. Navigating partnership issues is an essential part of sustainable social change or social impact. This article will give you solutions to navigate difficult conversations with partners that can cause problems. 

Tip #1: Establish Consistent & Transparent Communication to Avoid Partnership Problems

Partnerships are built on communication. Consistent, clear, and transparent communication are the only way lasting partnerships can create social change. To make a partnership work, you must create space for this type of communication to take place. 

Social Impact partnerships are just like a marriage, except with a lot more partners. Everyone has to come to the table with what they offer and the best intentions Partners need to be ready to share, communicate, and commit. 

Partnerships are one of the quickest ways for you to be successful at creating social change. Communicating with multiple partners can be difficult to manage and takes a lot of time to develop. 

Here are a few ways to ensure you and your partners communicate in a transparent and impact-driven manner: 

  • Have Strong Facilitation– you need to have a strong facilitator for the conversation. If you have a strong facilitator who has the rapport of the group that will greatly help you as you address the challenges ahead. 
  • Move Past Blame Shame- Don’t blame shift or spread blame for problems that arise in the partnership. Focusing on blame can deter your energy from being spent on finding a solution.
  • Build Lots of Trust- People don’t easily enter into a trusting relationship with open communication period. 
  • Get to Issues Early- As soon as the partnership issue comes up, have a frank conversation about it. This can be difficult for most partnerships that skipped the building trust part. As a general rule- Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could have resolved today. 

It’s always easier for people to decide not to have a difficult conversation than to actually have the conversation. That doesn’t resolve the problem. And it doesn’t help you get past the challenge that you’re facing. The best way to resolve a problem is to resolve it early, making sure that you give it the appropriate attention that it needs.

Tip #2- Refine Your Strategy: What Worked? What Didn’t?

Lasting partnerships ask this question multiple times: “what worked and for whom?”

This simple question will help you examine your outcomes so you can make choices about your future strategy. Knowing who received services, if they yielded the anticipated results, and if those were the outcomes you aimed to achieve are powerful tools to help your decision-makers think ahead.

The second question that partnerships can ask is “where does decision-making power lie within this sort of partnership dynamic?” Understanding how the decision-making process works within your partnership can help you determine how to proceed forward. 

After examining what worked and what didn’t you can empower your decision-making body to use data to decide the future strategy.

Partnerships is one of the dimensions of sustainability I share in this podcast episode.

Tip #3- Ask Yourself… Have Potential Clients Experienced Difficulty Accessing Help? Did Our Efforts Accidentally Create That Condition?

Creating equitable services and programs requires attention to detail. Understanding how people access your services, and if there are barriers to access is important work for partnerships to grapple with. Partnership problems can arise from issues serving clients. Partners can lose trust or lose faith in the mission if they do not believe services and programs are working.

Knowing where there are barriers to access can help partners navigate improvements like tightening up referral processes or ways to identify clients who are a better fit for your program. There are loads of ways for partnerships to problem-solve access issues by exploring if your efforts created any unintentional barriers.

Tip #4: Focus On Partners With Aligned Impact Missions

If you’re looking for partners and you can’t find them, try looking at organizations with the same or similar type of mission or a complementary mission to see who their partners are. You can build a strong partnership by finding other partners that are similar.

If you’re having difficulty recruiting partners, look through business directories for your area. There are a lot of potential partners, particularly businesses, that you can approach to join your partnership. Finding partners with aligned impact missions can take a bit of effort to leverage your network for this information. 

Tip #5: Leverage Your Partnerships to Access More Funding

Multi-sector partnerships working on an aligned impact mission can use their partnership to gain access to other funding sources. This is a partnership 2.0 strategy that requires mapping needs and funding sources available to the partnership. However, I would recommend getting help with a strategy like this so you can maximize your options.

Here are a few other common questions about partnership and social entrepreneurship that come up. These are common questions related to business and nonprofit partnerships or benefit partnerships.

What To Do If Your Partnership Is Ending Abruptly

Occasionally, partnerships abruptly end for various reasons. Not all partnerships will go on forever or need to go on forever. The natural lifecycle of a partnership depends on lots of factors. 

What If Our Funding Abruptly Ends?

More commonly than partnerships that abruptly end, is funding that ends and causes a partnership to stop working. Unfortunately, this is a common issue when partners have not planned for sustainability

Funding abruptly ending or organizations withdrawing from the partnership are two common issues that cause a partnership to end. Sometimes partners don’t get to outcomes, or there are contracting issues between partnering organizations that cause the entire partnership to dissipate. 

These types of issues are common in multi-sector partnerships. If you’re guiding a multi-sector partnership, getting help to navigate these very sensitive issues will give you the support you need to stay in business. 

Can a Nonprofit be in a Partnership With a Business

Yes. Corporate charity partnerships, nonprofit corporate partnerships, or benefit partnerships are all terms to describe a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a business. 

This type of partnership can be 1:1 where a nonprofit organization directly benefits from a business’ impact mission. For example, a % of profit goes to the nonprofit organization for a particular cause. 

If a business is part of a larger multi-sector partnership, the business might be representing its sector or can be contributing resources to help the group meet its impact mission. 

There are loads of ways that businesses can support nonprofit organizations monetarily and with donations. A great way to create loyal business relationships is to work with a nonprofit to help its mission. That can be beyond money and donations, which can include volunteering for events, being on a nonprofit board, hosting fundraising events, sponsoring events, giving goods, or donating space for training. 

Nonprofit organizations can build stronger partnerships with businesses by connecting with business owners and raising awareness about their cause with local business leaders. 

Want to Know More About How To Build Strong Partnerships and Avoiding Partnership Problems? 

I offer my services to organizations and partnerships with impact-driven missions. That means social entrepreneurs who are working to amplify their cause and grow their impact via partnerships can access loads of support. Helping partnerships is a strategy to promote sustainability and ensure that partnerships can reach their full potential.

Contact me to help guide you in navigating tough partnership conversations.

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