Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Groups Can Collaborate for Success

Groups Can Collaborate for Success


By Tavia Evans Gilchrist

As a tight economy challenges corporate members and associations to look for new ways to add member value, effective partnerships with other groups, the private sector and the government will become critical to the success of many organizations.
The biggest hurdle is identifying those partners who share common goals, strategy, mission and philosophy, said Keith Skillman, vice president of publications at ASAE, who worked on the book's content. Choose well, and the partnership can extend resources and relationships that an organization did not possess before. That's the premise behind this partnership primer, itself a collaboration between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ASAE &The Center for Association Leadership and Plexus Consulting Group LLC.
Together, they continue the conversation started two years ago in 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don't, also published by ASAE and the U.S. Chamber. In that publishing effort, alliance building was identified as a key mark of a thriving organization. This book takes that idea a step further, with case studies, partnership strategies, legal requirements and checklists to guide groups down a winning path.
The scenarios included in the publication are drawn from real examples, though names and organizations remain anonymous. The research process included a preliminary questionnaire, virtual focus groups with association leaders and interviews that helped identify organizations with a track record for successful partnerships.
A reality check endows this book with a practical sense of what real and successful partnerships require-it's not as simple as slapping another group's logo on marketing and promotional materials. Nearly 50 percent of partnerships fail, usually due to a lack of shared vision and communication about goals, said Raymond Towle, executive director, federation relations, at the U.S. Chamber. And if that rate seems high, it factors in the risk to membership and an organization’s potential revenue and brand.
The authors encourage a multi-step approach to the endeavor, which includes first preparing your organization to partner, identifying a good it in another group, legal steps to formalize the relationship and maintaining it for success. Communication on clearly defined roles, responsibilities and metrics-increased revenue for members, or increased attendance at a conference, for example-can help the organizations clarify strategies and goals for the collaboration. "Before a partnership, there must be some self-exploration about the needs and strategic goals of each group, and where those intersect," Skillman said. “Those organizations that are good at partnering and building alliances understand where this practice fits in with their overall strategy."
And where that strategy includes growing revenue, transparency, disclosure and trust are paramount. One case study reveals a group that severed ties with its trade show partner over accusations that neither side was forthcoming about finances. Exit strategies, a well-thought out plan to sever the relationship, don't equal a failure, the authors point out. A handy legal appendix, with sample contracts and agreements, helps walk associations through the legal protections and agreed consequences of a partnership that goes south.
The book's biggest takeaway is that partnerships can be an effective tool to enhance an association's strategy, and getting more done in an economic climate where resources may be fewer in the foreseeable future. The most successful groups have team mentalities, with coupled strategies and compatible missions that underscore the collaboration, said Steve Worth, managing director at the Plexus Consulting Group. "We stumbled upon some partnerships that lasted for a decade or more and the people involved had retired or changed or moved on," Worth said. "It highlighted the fact that if it's a well-conceived partnership, the players and executives can change and the partnership will continue because it's the right match."

No comments: