Key Tips and How-Tos

The Key to success in partnerships? Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

Communicate frequently to ensure partnership success

Recognize partner contributions

Plan ahead to survive

Monitor the partnership


The key to success in partnerships? Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!


  • Although multiple individuals within the partnering organization may be involved in your collaborative efforts, it is important to identify one person within the agency to serve as the key contact.  Ideally, this person has the authority to make decisions or has direct access to the decision makers. This person should also have the time to support the partnership activities.
  • Similarly, identify a specific individual within your own organization to serve as the project manager or single point person. This person should be empowered to serve as your designated representative and to communicate with the partner on behalf of your organization.
  • Like a friendship or any other ongoing relationship, realize that it takes time and effort to nurture relationships with your key contacts and with the other individuals at the organization that are involved in the program efforts.
  • Ensure that you are building your relationship on a solid foundation. By now, you should have already established a shared vision and/or joint partnership goals, determined roles and responsibilities and developed a clear and realistic work plan.

  • See: Chapter 1-4: Securing A Commitment

  • It is also important to establish ground rules or norms regarding issues such as:

    • How you want to interact via meetings and other communication activities
    • How you want to report results and establish accountability mechanisms
    • How to share resources as appropriate
    • How to share authority and control as appropriate
    • How to ensure appropriate cross-representation on each other’s key governing structures (for example, the state arthritis steering group or AF board or committee)
    • How to form or define any other needed structures and operating systems

  • Invite your partner’s key contact and/or other key individuals to get involved in your organization in other ways.  For example, ask them to serve on committees and participate in other events and activities.

    See: How to Keep Your Partners Engaged tip sheet



Communicate frequently to ensure partnership success


  • Maintain ongoing, open lines of communication. Set aside time on a regular basis. This could be a simple phone call a few minutes a week to offer assistance and to help your partner remember the importance of your work together.  You also could have more formal conference calls or in-person meetings to share updates and to help everyone stay on track with expected tasks.
  • Make contact with simple thank you notes, written or by e-mail, birthday cards, periodic e-mails etc., even when you do not need anything. Keep your partner contacts on your mailing list to receive news updates, your newsletter and other communication vehicles.

    See: Year-Round Cultivation Touch Ideas for Partners tip sheet

  • Be honest and transparent to build trust.
  • Establish a means of continuous communication, such as a newsletter, emailed updates or other mechanisms, to report progress and help keep the momentum alive. This will also keep all parties engaged, helping to ensure success.
  • Periodically ask how things are going so you have the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings and to resolve early any conflicts that may arise. This proactive approach will help you avoid the inevitable strain in the relationship that can occur when issues go unresolved for long periods of time.

    How to Resolve Conflict tip sheet
    How to Address Common Partnership Challenges tip sheet



Recognize partner contributions


  • When partners are publicly and privately recognized for their efforts, they are more likely to commit to ongoing collaborations.
  • Frequently and adequately recognize not only your program successes, but also your partner’s contributions to help ensure that your partner sees the value of your collaboration.
  • Some ideas for recognizing your partners and making them feel appreciated for their contributions include:

    • Celebrate victories and recognize milestones along with your partners’ efforts at annual chapter and state meetings or other key events.
    • Consider providing a plaque or sign designating the collaborating agency as an official partner. Click here to see a plaque developed by the Arthritis Foundation Virginia Chapter
    • Involve the media when possible to promote achievements. Whenever an article is published that mentions the partner, be sure to send a copy to the partner.

  • See:
    Program Partnership Announcement News Release to promote new partnerships. This can be adapted to include information about your achievements and testimonials from your instructors and program participants.


    Also see the Partner Offers AF Programs news release and Chapter 2-7: Resources for Recruiting Program Participants for more tips on how to use the media and testimonials

    • Provide extra discounts for AF materials and brochures.
    • Reserve spots for your partner’s staff when offering your next training workshop.



Plan ahead to survive



Monitor the partnership


Check program progress

  • Ensure your partnership’s long-term success by periodically monitoring your progress towards your program goals. The same workgroup that developed your sustainability plan can also help you monitor your program progress. Some questions to ask:

    • Is everyone doing what they agreed to do in the set timeline?
    • Are you achieving your objectives? For example, have you met your objectives for the number of programs and participants reached?
    • What barriers to program delivery are you encountering, and how can you address these?
    • Do you need to revise the plan?
    • Are you ready to add a new program or expand your objectives?

  • Summarize your data results, and present your results back to your partner. This will help everyone feel a sense of ownership of the mutual goals and efforts.


Review your partnership

  • It is also a good idea to periodically step back and take a critical look at how the partnership itself is functioning. Ask for feedback, and then show how this input is considered and addressed. Questions to consider include:

    • Is there a fair division of responsibilities and resources?
    • Are staff from the involved organizations working well together?
    • Are the communication mechanisms in place working well? Does everyone involved feel they are well-informed?
    • What costs and benefits have resulted from the partnership?
    • What are the partnership’s major strengths and successes?
    • What are its major weaknesses or failings?
    • What measures would strengthen the partnership?

  • See: Monitoring Partnerships Worksheet to see ten key indicators of strong functioning partnerships. Use this tool as a guide to assess how well your partnership is functioning and to determine areas that may need to be addressed in your Partnership Sustainability Plan.

    Also see Examples from the Field: Lifecare Alliance in Ohio and Increasing Reach in Illinois for additional ideas and examples of how to sustain your partnership






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