My dog is full of energy and constantly on the lookout for new entertainment. When she’s had enough of squeaky toys, she chases her tail. Round and round in circles, oblivious to the world around her. I couldn’t see the entertainment value, but then realised I’d spent the last five minutes watching her do it.
Working in partnerships can sometimes feel like we’re chasing our own tails, but not as much fun. It can be too easy to get stuck into a cycle of frustration. Once you’re in the cycle it’s hard to find a way out as you’re too busy running hard. Does it feel like this for you?
Potential– whether you’re starting from scratch or rebuilding a partnership portfolio, there’s partnership potential for everyone.
Early wins– maybe you’ve landed some low hanging fruit or had a few lucky breaks. Accidental brilliance is bringing in some $$.
Bottleneck– you’re spending a lot of time and resources on your partners. They’re keen and love to fill your inbox with ideas of what you can do for them. The problem is, the ROI is too small. They’re sucking your time and energy for not enough $$$.
Pressure– your leadership and board can see you’re busy, but they want a better return. They’ve got funding gaps to fill. They set you higher KPIs.
Burnout– you and the team are exhausted. You don’t know where to go for partnership leads and your immediate network has run dry. You’ve hit the ceiling with existing partners and they’re unwilling to commit more.
Rehire & restart– this is typically the time when good people decide to take their portfolio of skills and play elsewhere. Partnership managers want to be successful and will go somewhere that supports that success. The organisation hires some new staff and restarts. The cycle begins again.
Are you somewhere in this cycle of frustration? You need a circuit breaker to put you back on track.
Organisations find themselves in this cycle for various reasons.
Lack of a systematic approach
Accidental brilliance is great, but not sustainable. It’s also hard to teach anyone else in the team. A systematic approach that is anchored in your strategic needs and positioning will ensure that every partnership delivers on your key organisational mission and goals.
Lack of strategic alignment
If you don’t know which corporates to target and why, you’ll probably end up with a portfolio of mismatched supporters that won’t stick around. If you understand what you’ve got to offer and where you’re going, it will help you make the best choices of partners that are the right fit for you. Then you won’t waste time on those energy suckers with a too-small ROI.
Lack of core skills
Partnership skills are a hybrid of sales, marketing, strategy and relationship management. They’re not the same as fundraising. We all come to partnerships from different backgrounds and need to round out our skills as we go.
If you’re a border collie then chasing your tail is the best fun ever. If you’ve got two legs and partnership ambitions, there are more fulfilling ways to use your day.
Talk to us if you need an external perspective on your partnerships, some problem solving to give you a roadmap out of frustration and a realistic view of the potential for your organisation.