I’ve amassed a ton of photos from family trips when my kids were little. We uncovered some albums recently and sat down together to revisit happy memories. We found pictures of a trip to Amsterdam and I recalled the canals, the flowers and the fabulous Van Gogh museum. My son remembered it differently. He loved the trip because he got to eat chips out of a cone, served with mayonnaise instead of ketchup. He also managed to consume 8 slices of toast from one of those toasting machines at the breakfast buffet, just to see how this magical piece of engineering worked.
Each of us sees things differently. Like a kaleidoscope with changing patterns, you just have to shift position a little to get a new perspective. When we help corporates and community groups work together, we often observe two tribes that don’t speak the same language. Sometimes you just need to understand each other’s perspective to bridge that gap and deepen a partnership.
Here are six things that your community partner would like you to know.
Be realistic about expectations
It’s wonderful that you’re inspired by the cause and we know you truly want to make a difference. But we’re not miracle workers. $50,000 won’t eradicate a disease; Bill Gates committed over $1billion to eradicate polio and he’s not done yet. It will provide a guide dog for a vision impaired person or fresh water for a village in Uganda, but let’s have a realistic view of what we can achieve within your budget.
We both struggle with internal stakeholders
You’re a champion for us within your organisation but I know you struggle with getting the attention of your internal communications team, promotion space on your intranet and time with your leadership. Thanks for persevering against the barriers to implementing our partnership. We have the same struggles as we try to get partnership deliverables onto the To Do list of our departmental colleagues. They’re very willing but stretched with limited resources and competing priorities. We’ll do everything we can to help you train your internal dragons, if you can understand that we’re putting out similar fires too.
Tell us no if it’s a no
Don’t be afraid to give us the tough news if something isn’t going ahead or the proposal won’t work. I know it’s human to avoid a tough conversation, but just an email with an honest answer would be great. Then you won’t feel like I’m stalking you and I can move onto something else. A bit of feedback or a simple reason for your decision would really help- not just to get my boss off my back because she thinks it’s such a slam dunk.
Don’t be afraid to pose an ambitious challenge. We can get mired in the day to day just like you and we love to be challenged. We’ll tell you what’s possible but seek your input to explore the ‘what if….’ possibilities for working together. We can dream and create together, but I’ll need your expertise, your support and potentially more of your resources to work with us and make it happen. If you want to solve some of the world’s big issue with us, let’s go high.
Volunteering costs money
We love to see your employees and suppliers get involved in the partnership. But it costs us money to run and manage volunteers, arrange field trips, facilitate visits and make sure everyone is safe, supported and organised. If we charge for volunteering opportunities it’s not price gouging, it’s simply covering the costs of our staff, time and processes. Otherwise we’ll have to cover those costs from the funds raised by our mum and dad donors- and they wouldn’t like to know that their precious donations are covering your amazing staff experience. Factor those costs into the partnership agreement and we’ll avoid those awkward conversations or you having to go back to your leadership for more budget.
You can ask
We’re not mind readers and we don’t bite, so don’t be afraid to ask if you need something. That might be a shoutout on LinkedIn, a ticket to an event or a different kind of report. We’ll always respond and tell you what’s possible. Your request could open up new ideas for us and create new pathways for the partnership. We love to be creative and we might just surprise you, so just ask.
At the heart of every great partnership is open and honest communication. We may do things a bit differently, but we have more in common than you think. Whether you prefer the Van Gogh paintings or the chips with mayonnaise, simply understanding each other’s perspective will the recipe for a long- lasting partnership.