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Stellar Partnerships

Stellar Partnerships: Corporate & Community Partnership

Solving the partnership Rubik’s cube

Did you have a Rubik’s cube when you were little? I have two big brothers and not one of us could solve it correctly. My middle brother would pop the pieces out and then put them back in, so the cube looked solved. I had a different strategy – peel the stickers off and stick them back on in the places that I wanted. I’d stick a few but mainly just to get one side done. My brother would then find it and start wrangling pieces out. It would never work as we’d totally stuffed up the logic to the cube.

Recently, my daughter was gifted a 4 by 4 Rubik’s cube. She’s much better at it than I ever was. Of course, the little one is easier (I told myself- ha). Then I had an epiphany.  I’m sure there’s a YouTube on how to fix this. Spoiler alert- it’s just an algorithm. Once you master the twist and turns you can solve it again and again. Go figure?! If anyone is up for a Rubik’s off please challenge me. I can do it within about 5 minutes now. My next big goal is the 3 x 3. Wish me luck!

Corporate partnerships are a lot like a Rubik’s cube. They are multi-dimensional, in contrast to traditional fundraising. That’s why so many non-profits are struggling to master partnerships- the algorithm remains a mystery. Here are my observations:

They’re only presenting one side of the cube

Typically, NFPs only present one side of their work to a corporate partner, such as staff engagement, or program support This side only tells the story of their existing programs or initiatives that they have successfully implemented. It’s great to showcase your organisation’s past achievements and tangible impact but your organization has a much richer and deeper story to tell. A story that will be much more engaging to a corporate prospect. If I gave you a one-sided Rubik’s cube, just like a flat jigsaw puzzle, you’d get pretty bored quickly. How can you help your partners discover the other sides?

It takes time and patience

Business-to-business sales are typically taking longer. Businesses are making decisions slower and more being more considerate with their budgets. You also need to spend time learning how to put the different facets of your organisation’s story together into a cohesive whole.

Accidental brilliance will only get you so far

Everyone can solve one or two sides of the Rubik’s cube. Learning the twists and turns to solve the whole cube takes time, patience, and skills. You might have a huge portfolio or partnerships, or you’ve won one or two large ones. Now your program has stagnated and you don’t know what to do next. How do you get more money from your existing partners? Who are the right partners for your organisation? How much time have you got to figure this out?  Trial and error means you may eventually get there on your own but there are quicker ways of learning the solutions. If you can be systematic and not reactionary you’ll spend a bit of time learning but the results will be larger and more sustainable.

Seeing the bigger picture

When solving a Rubik’s cube, you have to think further ahead than the next twist or turn. Individual moves won’t get you there. Do you know what the big vision is that you’re trying to solve? Can you articulate your long terms goals, the systemic change that you aspire to create and the positive outcomes that extend beyond your immediate programs? Big goals are seductive and inspiring. Everyone can turn a Rubik’s cube. It’s having a solved cube with each piece in the right place that has kept players giving it a go for over 40 years. They want to solve it. What are you asking your partners to help you solve?

The world record for solving a Rubik’s cube is 3.13 seconds. They make it look effortless because they have practiced the twists and turns so many times it looks easy. Great partnership programs appear to be just as effortless. Legacy didn’t build $8m in partnerships by doing it accidentally. They worked on their knowledge and building the foundations of each side of their cube. When they started prospecting they could present a fully solved cube and demonstrate how this would help solve business issues and improve the lives for veterans. Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. If you’re twisting and turning and can’t get anything to line up, reach out for help in solving the other sides of your cube.