Never form a partnership where 1 + 1 = 2.
I read that in a book over 10 years ago when I was starting my consulting practice.
The author said a 1 + 1 partnership just isn’t worth the headache and heartache—especially when you don’t get much in return. (After all, two is only slightly more than one.)
Instead, this book advised to only form partnerships when they’re exponentially advantageous to all parties involved.
In other words, strive for partnerships where 1 + 1 = a whole lot more than 2.
So what makes a good partnership?
In nonprofits, we partner with other people on a regular basis. They may not be “formal” partnerships (like a legally binding business partnership), but the concepts still apply. Specifically, we’re talking about the concepts of collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork.
Over the course of any given day, you may collaborate with staff members, board members, and other volunteers. You might also work with consultants, as well as individual and institutional donors.
So what makes a good collaboration?
If your goal is to maximize what all parties gain through their collaboration, the partnership should significantly enhance the task at hand. You should not simply be looking for an extra set of hands, but instead you should look for someone (or a group of people) who brings more to the equation:
- extra skills
- better talents
- different experiences
- more resources
- new perspectives
With each of these qualities, you’re getting more value out of the partnership. The more of these qualities that enter the mix, the greater the value.
In that way, 1 + 1 CAN = 100.
How to make this equation work for you
When you hire staff members, it’s sometimes tempting to hire someone who has a background and perspective similar to yours. That’s what feels most comfortable.
If, however, you want to exponentially expand the skill set of your team, it’s far better to hire someone with extra skills and a different background. Or someone with an entirely different perspective and set of talents.
Ideally, you want someone who will challenge the status quo and push the limits on what your team can accomplish. And you’ll find that when you seek out partnerships that have exponential growth potential.
When partnering with volunteers and board members
When you work with board members or volunteers, it’s important that they bring a range of skills and connections to the table. If you recruit volunteers only from the circles of your existing volunteers, you won’t get the maximum benefit out of the partnership.
When partnering with major donors
Likewise, a truly great partnership with a major donor is when someone with significant financial resources (but not the time or know-how to accomplish what your organization strives to achieve), joins forces with your nonprofit.
In both cases, you can see the multiplier effect in action. Everyone involved gains something of value.
Perfect example: my partnership with Andrea Kihlstedt
Andrea Kihlstedt and I worked together to create the Capital Campaign Toolkit. We both had revolutionary ideas about how to improve the current model for running a capital campaign. But we have completely different skill sets and perspectives.
Although we’re both fundraising consultants, Andrea’s entire career has focused on capital campaigns. She’s got deep campaign expertise. My experience is more focused on major gifts, board training, and online fundraising training.
Our equation created the Capital Campaign Toolkit.
I could not have created the Capital Campaign Toolkit without Andrea, and, likewise, she could not have created it without me. Together, we’ve come up with something unique and extraordinary.
See? 1 + 1 = 100.
Traditionally, when organizations start a capital campaign, the first step is to hire a consultant. That’s the old 1 + 1 model, and it limits how well your campaign can perform. The consultant has all the power and leads the staff blindly through the process.
This creates a very one-sided collaboration.
Find a well-balanced partnership
Now, imagine what would happen if you entered the partnership with your campaign consultant holding a detailed roadmap for your entire campaign. After all, you know your mission and your constituents better than anyone. It makes perfect sense for you to have an outsized role creating the map to your success.
The Capital Campaign Toolkit gives you all the tools and templates you need to create your capital campaign road map. That gives your campaign a huge head start before you even sit down with your campaign consultant.
You gain a better understanding of campaigns and a detailed plan of action. Pair that with a consultant and ...
Again: 1 + 1 = 100.