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Partnering with other organizations can positively affect any project. Partners bring in more resources, generate extra publicity, and instill a spirit of open dialog even if there are controversial issues. While working in partnerships may be challenging or may seem to impede progress, we believe that projects that are guided or run by multiple parties are generally more successful. Having public support and cooperation of more people and organizations fuels the momentum of a project.

Forming a partnership involves bringing together two or more groups, organizations, companies, or government agencies that are not otherwise connected. The responsibilities of each party and its roles are defined in a written document such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

Partnerships work best if both sides have something to gain. It can be tangible: staff expertise, financial backing, a mailing list, political connections, etc. It can be intangible such as improving a groupís image in the community, or it can be a combination of both. Finding partners may be easy or may take some lobbying to show an organization or company how it will benefit from being involved.

Most often partnerships are formed due to mutual interests in the same resource or goals. For instance, a state department of natural resources may recruit a paddlersí group and an anglersí group because both use the same river and feel access is an important issue. The groups may formally agree to participate in a task force, provide copies of their membership lists, provide volunteers for events and meetings, or raise funds to achieve the goals of the project. Partnerships may last just for the duration of a particular project or may evolve into a permanent committee or authority that has ongoing management responsibilities.

Partnerships do differ from sponsorships. While partners share responsibility for getting work done for the duration of a project, sponsors financially back, and may assist in planning, only a specific event. The sponsorís interests may be to gain goodwill and generate positive press about itself as opposed to long-term interest in a resource.


1. Identify potential partners

Choosing partners depends upon the stage of the project. If it is at the beginning, brainstorm a list of every potential group, government agency, and business that may have a potential interest in the community or resource project. Do not limit the list to only those who have similar missions and goals; the most creative and fruitful partnerships may bring together less obvious parties or even longstanding "enemies."

If it is at the end of a project, use the work generated when formulating an Action Agenda, which is an annotated list of proposed outcomes . Each action identifies what needs to be done, who is going to do it, how it will be done, and when it will be done. Those identified under "Who" are potential partners.

2. Recruit

Schedule initial meetings with potential partners to provide background information on the project, work plans, schedules, etc. Clearly present both what you hope they can contribute and how that partner stands to gain. Do not give up too quickly if a potential partner does not respond. Some may need more time to think it over or seek approval from others in their office, or they may want to see if the project is going to succeed. Continue to go back and re-invite those who at first declined. Always be prepared to restate your case: what the goals are and what the mutual benefits will be.

3. Define roles and responsibilities

The format and formality of a partnership can vary widely. Whether it is simple or complex, it benefits everyone if an agreement is reached beforehand about each entityís role and responsibilities. Document in writing the purpose of the partnership and the roles and tasks of the various partners, the duration of the partnership, and provisions for making changes to the agreement including adding or releasing partners or dissolving the partnership. Negotiate any points of contention so that there is consensus.

Prepare a written document detailing the partnership in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Include a formal coversheet that summarizes the agreement and includes signatures for each partnerís president, director, or chief executive officer.

4. Host a signing ceremony

Invite the press, partnersí staff and members, and key stakeholders to witness the signing of the MOU or MOA. Ask politicians and each of the signers to deliver short speeches; this is a great opportunity for them to publicly show their support. Ideally, hold the ceremony at the resource, such as on a riverbank or at a park. Take plenty of photographs and videotape the speakers for future outreach materials and publications.

Wednesday 6/05/02 2:00.00
An agreement between two or more entities to pool resources and to work together for a particular purpose.

You are pursuing goals that will affect other people and organizations.

You need more resources, whether financial, political, or human, to accomplish your goals.

You want a strong coalition that shows how interests are in agreement.

You are aware of several strong interest groups that have already voiced opposition to any efforts and want to formalize their participation in the planning process.


You are running a small project and your agency or group owns the land, no one else uses it, and you have all of the needed resources to accomplish your goals.

You really just want a stamp of approval on what youíre doing. Partners may bring in their own opinions and recommendations in exchange for resources, and you have to respond.  

  Partnerships can be formed at any time during the planning process as needs arise and as interests are expressed.