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Posted by Sarah Brown on 02 Nov '12

Creating successful charity partnerships for new funding

With the new Advice Services Transition fund being launched, even more charities will be considering how they can work in partnership. In my experience if you don't have strong strategic input in the beginning you can waste months in fruitless talks

The new Advice Services Transition fund means there will be up to £65 million available to help partnerships of advice organisations to identify new ways of delivering and funding their services in the future. Funding is provided by BIG and the Cabinet Office.

Grants of between £50,000 and £350,000 will be available to partnerships of local not-for-profit advice providers who can come together in an area and demonstrate that they have compelling plans to improve services and make them more viable. You can find more information about the fund on the big lottery website

This is a great opportunity but also a threat. We have worked with several sets of advice agencies who have been thinking of working together. In some cases the local authority has brought us in because they are keen on the partnership. In each case we were brought in because the process had stalled. Lots of valuable time had been wasted in meetings which achieved nothing; in one case talks had gone on for over 7 months and nothing had been achieved. The organisation who brought us in thought it might be a personality issue but weren't really sure and the relationship should really have made sense as the areas where they worked were next to each other and each could offer different things. It was this client that prompted me to develop the Collaboration Optimiser(c) a simple tool that identifies why you might want to work together.

The key is to establish from each perspective what you want to get out of the partnership and what you can offer right at the start. The reality is just because you offer similar services, are charities, are geographically close, and even like each other, this is not enough for a successful partnership to develop. One session - in one case after just 10 minutes - can identify if there is strategic alignment and save months of wasted time. You can download the simple collaboration optimiser tool from our website (go to our world and at the bottom of the page tools) or contact me about running a tailored session with a collaboration optimiser(c) developed to reflect your needs.

The global goal of working together to access the funding and potentially get contracts is not enough without clarity about how strategically each of you is to be involved, please don't put your organisation at risk by wasting time on talks that go nowhere - a successful marriage is based on each partner contributing however much you talk.