Entering a partnership with another NGO has many benefits. Particularly when your own NGO is very new, it makes a lot of sense to get another partner with more experience on board! But how can you make sure an NGO partnership is a success? What are potential pitfalls? In this article, we elaborate a little bit more on this topic.
Sometimes you might only consider a partnership because a donor requests it. If you start planning your partnership while you already write the proposal, you are a bit late though. Look out for partners, even if there is no deadline on the horizon. This way you have enough time to really work out an agreement without pressure and make sure that your partnership is based on a good foundation.
Use the strengths of each partner
A partnership only makes sense, if both sides are benefited by it. Each organization should supplement the other in areas where they are lacking. So be sure to use each partners strength to make the maximum out of a partnership. Be open about your own strengths and weaknesses and discuss this with the other side. In the ideal case, both partners can learn a lot from the other and resources are used in the most effective way.
Sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a document where two or more partners formulate their responsibilities and tasks in a partnership. Many times, it also includes a budget. In an MoU, the partners agree on who takes the lead, which tasks will be performed by whom and other details of the implementation. It is also determined, which partner will get reimbursed for what and when.
If you want to form an alliance or partnership with another NGO, it is very important that you sign an MoU. Maybe you have known the other NGO for a long time, or you feel like they are your friends. Still, do not skip the step of signing an MoU, because you never know what the future may hold. Maybe a new board gets elected and they want to set a new focus for their work. Maybe you win that huge grant, and suddenly the partnership that was symbolic just a couple of months ago has to handle a lot of money. Always make sure you have everything in writing and everybody is clear about the base of your work.
While we just stressed the importance of signing a contract that determines the responsibilities of each partner, at the same time it is important that you do not look at this contract as something that is set in stone. Situations change, so you should be ready to change your MoU in accordance! Always make sure though that all partners agree with your prosed changes and that everyone is on the same page.
Have frequent meetings
Like in every kind of partnership, communication is key to success. Make sure you have frequent meetings to discuss progress, next steps and potential problems. Be open with your partner and try to address issues head-on and very early before they grow into something that is much more difficult to handle.
Don´t stop after a project ends
If you applied for funding together and the implementation was a success, don’t stop there. Use this joint success as a base for future collaborations and build on it for an ongoing partnership. Together you are always stronger than alone.