Create a good partnership in eight steps

Partnerships strengthen programs and allow organizations to grow; learn how to create or improve existing partnerships with this eight-step approach.

A partnership is a relationship between two or more people or organizations that are involved in the same activity. As organizations develop partnerships in order to grow their program and stay relevant in the ever-competing world of tough financial times, agencies must examine current partnerships as well as potential ones in order to make sure the partner relationship is relevant. Doing this also allows them to form new partnerships that will benefit their clients and organization.

According to the Grow 4-H: Building Partnerships to Benefit Youth, developed by University of Minnesota Extension and Iowa State University Extension, agencies need to follow the steps of a process when deciding to develop and maintain partnering relationships. The following steps will assist your agency in determining if a partnership is what’s best for your agency and your clients in growing the program:

Step one: Identify the potential partner. Know who the contact person is, location of the partner and other information necessary to make contact with the potential partner.

Step two: Decide what level of a relationship you want to develop (options include networking, coordination, cooperation or collaboration). Each level has pros and cons and the partnership may choose to change levels at any time, but identifying where you want the partnership to be is important so all parties involved understand the goal. For more information on each of the levels, see the Michigan State University Extension article “Developing Partnerships to Grow Your Program.”

Step three: Know your own organization. What benefits of your organization will interest this partner? Be able to sell your program and get others excited about the potential of developing a relationship with your organization.

Step four: Research the potential partner. Based on the identified needs of your organization, does this appear to be a good partner to pursue? If the answer is no, then you need to start over with identifying a different potential partner. If the answer is yes, then proceed to next step.

Step five: Plan for the first meeting and assess partnership viability. Answer questions like does the partner’s mission and goals align with your organizations? Does the potential partner’s audience and activities align with yours? Is there a sense of trust among all parties involved? If so, proceed to next step. If not, go back to step four and start researching another potential partner.

Step six: Establish, manage and secure resources. This is the step where partnerships will spend the most time. As you move through this phase, you will need to negotiate with the partner who will be responsible for partnership coordination and evaluation, program development or curriculum, program finances, legal considerations, program staff, program promotion and communication, program implementation, management and evaluation.

Step seven: Train and support. What training is needed in order to effectively work within this partnership? Who will provide the training? What training and support is needed to ensure a quality program?

Step eight: Evaluate. This is the step that most of us do not do when we have established a partnership. We are good a evaluating the program delivered, but it is equally important to evaluate the partnership as well.

Partnerships are a crucial part of the MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development program. The partnership that 4-H is probably most known for is one between the organization and the volunteers that deliver the programs. This partnership is essential in order to benefit the youth in our society.

Michigan 4-H is a youth development program that involves volunteers in providing positive, experiential, education opportunities for and with youth. Our mission is to create environments, through collaboration, that build strong healthy youth who are proactive in a complex and changing world. Consider partnering with 4-H!

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