Why a system unlocks partnership potential

Proportion
Categories: Blog

Everyone has goals. I had a goal in March to lose five kilos. It was a nice clear, simple goal that was easy to measure. But six months later, I still have a marshmallow middle and the kilos have stubbornly not moved. Did I not set the goal properly or is something else missing?

In his book Atomic Habits, the writer James Clear urges us to forget about goals and focus on systems instead. It’s the process that leads to the results, not just the goal itself. So, my goal to lose five kilos was doomed because I didn’t implement a system to help me achieve the outcome I wanted. Those Tim-Tams kept sneaking into my shopping basket.

In corporate-community partnerships we see this problem regularly. You set a stretch goal for partnerships, but it’s a struggle to get close. In the meantime, your CEO is wondering what you’ve been doing for the last six months.

In partnerships the plateau of potential looks like this:

The lack of a core system for corporate partnerships has a direct impact on the potential value for the charity. It manifests in different ways.

Low value, high effort partnerships

There’s nothing more frustrating than a portfolio of partners who are low value energy suckers. You spend heaps of time on the $5,000-10,000 corporate donations in the hope that some of the frogs will turn into a handsome prince. More frequently you end up with a portfolio of slimy amphibians and a funny taste in the mouth. Charities with lots of low value partnerships lack a system that helps them determine the best fit for their cause. Without a system you are more likely to chase every dollar without thinking strategically about the best use of your time and effort.

Partners that don’t stick around

Have you noticed that the list of corporates who no longer partner with you is longer than the list of current partners? We see this constantly when we audit a corporate partnership program. Corporates don’t stay the distance if they are not strategically aligned. That requires a thorough understanding of your own strategy, strengths and needs and the corporate’s priorities. You really need a system for creating that alignment and consistently nurturing relationships. Otherwise, you’ll churn through partners and wonder why they didn’t last long.

Saying yes to the wrong partner

It’s tempting to say yes to an unsolicited corporate offer – especially if you’re struggling to hit your goals. But like a one-night stand, you could regret it in the cold light of morning. Things don’t always work out the way you expected. That’s even more likely if you didn’t have a plan to start with. A system will establish your boundaries and standards and help you sort the great partners from the dead ends.

Burnout for partnership staff

In the diagram you’ll notice that there’s a little trough before the results really take off. James Clear calls this the ‘valley of disappointment’. This is typically the time when you’re putting the system into place and haven’t seen the results yet. It’s a stressful time for partnership managers, especially with a CEO that doesn’t understand what you’ve been doing for the last few months. Instead, you’ve been investing time in a system that will bring you much bigger results. The alternative is to chase some low value quick wins to keep the boss off your back. But you’ll compromise your future success and risk burnout for partnership staff chasing those energy sucking partners. As a CEO you’ll be back to square one and creating a cycle of frustration for the partnership team.

Audacious goals can be inspiring. Goals give us direction and an understanding of the results we want to achieve. But goals without a system are like asking someone to run a marathon without a training program. You might go well for the first 5-10 km but you’ll be a mess by halfway and unlikely to cross the finish line.

The best investment you can make for your corporate partnerships team is a system.

And those five kilos? The goal is still the same but now I’ve replanned my shopping list and signed up for a fitness program. If you don’t have a system for partnership success, then you need something that’s structured and proven. Otherwise you’ll never move past that plateau of partnership potential.

When you’re ready….here are 3 ways we can help you:

  1. Subscribe to our Partnerships News in the box below and get our latest blogs, tips and free resources.
  2. Join us for a FREE webinar on Weds 9th Sept: Now, Next and Beyond- new corporate partnerships for COVID times
  3. Register for our next group training program Partnership Acceleration System to build your system for successful partnerships.

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