Your project proposal may include a partner. There are different reasons for mentioning a partner in your proposal:

  • Your proposals looks more serious, especially if the partner is well-known.
  • You will be better able to reach the impact you need, for instance if the partner has expertise that you need and don’t yet have.
  • The donor prefers funding a consortium.
  • Or a partner can be a fiscal sponsor, an organization that will receive the funds and manage them for you. For example, if your organization does not have sufficient (credible) experience in handling the amount of money asked for.

So how to set up a partnership for your project?

Start with the beginning: set the scene

As with any kind of collaboration, you must agree on the why first:

  • What the aim of your collaboration? What is the result you both want to see at the end?

And it must be clear to both how that result can be achieved better together.

  • Who is bringing what to the table? Or: what is the added value of each of the partners in the partnership?

If a partner is mentioned in your approved proposal

If you have mentioned a partner in your proposal, the proposal probably explains part of the why. You can use this as a starting point for a scene-setting discussion. Keep in mind that the proposal might be older (sometimes it can take a donor a year to approve it!). Or that the current leadership may not have been involved in the proposal. So don’t assume people will know the why. Discuss it and agree on it as soon as your project team has been formed and initiated.

Define the role of each partner

Now that you are clear on the why of the partnership, look at the role of each partner in the project implementation. What will be the focus of each partner in the project? Will there be a coordinator role and an expert role? A coordinator role and an implementer role? Or something else? Agree on this and define what are responsibilities for each role.

Define the tasks of each partner

Now that you are clear and agreed on the why of the partnership and on the role of each partner, you can deep dive into the tasks:

  • Who will do what, how and when?
  • How is the reporting set-up: who will report to whom, how, and when?
  • Who will pay to whom, when and on what conditions?

Develop a joint work plan and timeline

It is always easier to work out all the tasks and deadlines if you develop a work plan with a timeline. If you do that with the partner, you can identify all action items and milestones together, check for dependencies and agree on reasonable deadlines.

Define the available budget for each partner

Once the why, the roles and the tasks are clear, you can assign budgets to each partner. What are the resources each partner can use to accomplish the tasks, within their role and in line with why they are part of the collaboration for the project implementation?

Budget responsibility

When you assign a certain part of the budget to a partner, be clear on the conditions for this. If the partner is reporting to you about their expenses and activities, make sure they do this according to the donor requirements and conditions. Make sure you get all the underlying documentation. And check this for correctness, completeness and compliance.

Write all this down in a contract!

Now that all arrangements are clear, make sure to write this down in an agreement. A standard agreement will include stipulations about liability, force majeure, copy right and (data) confidentiality. Add all official donor documentation as annexes, where it is important that all partners comply. Set up a meeting to go through all contract articles to make sure everyone understands them in the same way before signing.

My key tips

  • Never assume and always explicitly agree!
  • Make sure everyone understands each item in the contract!

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.