Partnerships are the Foundation of Nonprofit Collaborations
When starting any business, it was probably easy to define the types of clients you want to engage, but it becomes much more difficult to define how you wanted to engage them.
It is often simplest to go with what you know, and that is often the typical agency-to-client relationship; but that doesn’t always work. What I have quickly discovered through my experiences and research is that when it comes to nonprofits and cultural institutions, a partnership model is the only way to produce meaningful work.
The Relationship Model is Broken
Like any relationship in life, the agency-to-client relationship is a rollercoaster of emotions. When things are good, the champagne is flowing. And when things are bad, the uncertainty can eat you alive. The relationship model is not healthy for either party and can lead to nasty dissolves.
The reason the relationship model is broken is because both parties are invested in their own interests. While a “common goal” is generally established in a creative brief, both parties generally have a different understanding of how to get from point A to point B. The agencies have a desire to win awards, strengthen their portfolio, and impress other potential clients through the work they are doing. Clients want to ensure that they receive return on their investment, whether it is through sales or awareness.
It’s easy to see how that “common goal” is nearly unattainable if the protection of interests is involved.
Why Partnership Models Work
Even though clients are nonprofits and cultural institutions, the foundation of a partnership model can transcend to all areas of marketing. When establishing a new business with a client, ensure that it is an actual partnership and that your common goals are aligned well before any projects begin.
Establishing a partnership— a true partnership— leads to better outcomes and more creative work. This is because the work is built upon a collaboration, which leads to understanding and efficiency. When it comes to working with nonprofits, it is especially easy to believe in a common goal, and that has to do with the human nature of helping others. But the foundation of a partnership allows for full immersion in the communities and environments you are working to further. That same level of access could benefit any other line of business. However there are some keys to making a partnership work, simply saying “we are now partners” is never enough.
Keys to Success
Establish common goals
This new way of collaborating only works if common goals are established. Put aside goals and milestones for your business only, and work together towards one common goal. Consider some of these online tools for collaborating with your partners to streamline your efforts.
Allow your agency to fully immerse themselves in your business, your community, and your audience. Without it, the understanding and knowledge to truly reach the goal will be lost in a PowerPoint of assumptions. Do this at all costs, even if it means leaving a seat open in your office for your agency and vice versa.
Promise only what you can deliver
When the client-agency partnership is strong, you will both begin to understand each other and what it takes to launch successful campaigns. By promising only what you can deliver, you will not undersell or oversell your partner.
Benefits of a Partnership Model
There is an ever-growing number of benefits from working collaboratively in a partnership model. But here are a few of my personal favorites.
Learn from one another
The key is to know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and in a partnership model, you can learn from one another and know how to tackle more complex problems.
Develop a trust for one another
Trusting one another allows for more simplicity in the process. When trust has been earned, second-guessing and personal opinions no longer cloud judgment.
Challenge each other without confrontation
Being able to challenge each other is important, because without that, a project will remain stale and safe. Challenging each other with a level of comfort alleviates the need to be defensive, and only pushes the needle of success further.
A partnership is about dual invested interests, and when those goals are met, both the agency and client will begin to grow together. And watching that transformation for each other, in a partnership, will only drive both parties to see more successes.
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