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Nonprofit Arts
Development Guide

Chapter 5: Partnerships

Public granting agencies and private foundations encourage non-profit organizations to form effective community partnerships to better serve the public. Successful partnerships are cultivated over time, and the benefits are numerous for the partnering organizations and the communities they serve. Before entering into a partnership agreement, a non-profit organization should be aware of the realities of partnerships and collaborations, and understand when it is best to carry out a project on its own.

Ingredients for a Successful Partnership
When entering into a partnership, know all you can about your partner's administrative capacity and ethical standing. Ideally, you have had a working relationship with the other organization. The primary consideration is: "Will this partnership or collaboration help ensure the highest quality project or service for our community citizens?"

Benefits of Effective Partnerships
It is gratifying to board members and staff of non-profit organizations to participate in cultural and social development that benefits their community.

The Downside of a Dysfunctional Partnership
A weak or failing partnership is problematic and debilitating. Non-profit organizations rely on their public image and good standing within the community. Generally, public institutions operate in a transparent environment where integrity and professionalism is valued and carefully cultivated. Poorly matched partnerships can quickly turn negative and may cause strained or damaged relationships among the partnering organizations.

Why Partnerships Fail
Avoid entering into a partnership agreement prematurely. It is not realistic to assume that a partnership is always more effective, that funding entities always favor partnerships, and everyone involved will agree and get along. Some reasons for partnership failure are quite evident, other reasons are less evident.

Recognize and Heed Warning Signs of a Failing Partnership
Learn to recognize the warning signs of a weak or failing partnership, and avoid denial or procrastination when dealing with challenges. Act immediately to address any issues that are threatening the integrity of the community program or project.

The Ineffective Partnership: Repair or Withdraw?
We are in a partnership that is becoming dysfunctional. Community expectations are high, public and private funding is at stake, and we are concerned that program delivery and quality will be weakened. What do we do now? Do we try to repair the partnership, or do we withdraw? Is it realistic to assume that a facilitator can help repair our damaged partnership? These are questions that may arise if a partnership is not functioning well. A damaged partnership may become a public relations issue. When the partnership is dissolved late in the project, organization board members or executive directors are responsible for ensuring the public and funding entities that the project will be redirected and carried out with efficiency and integrity, or explain how and why the project failed and had to be canceled.