What is a Partnership?

Partnerships are collaborative agreements among both nonprofit and for-profit organizations designed to strengthen and enhance the mission.  While some partnerships are formal agreements, there are also informal partnerships that allow organizations to work together for a common goal.  Effective partnerships do not duplicate an activity or action, but rather enhance and expand and overarching objective for both parties.  (2014)

Partnership Framework:

Most successful partnerships are relationship-based. The goal is to build each other up, strengthen the foundation, and provide a solid structure from which more can be accomplished. When taking on a partnership, both parties are agreeing to take an active part in the development of the project, they both share the risk and responsibilities associated with the project, and ultimately they both reap the benefits of a successful project. When partnerships are developed using a solid framework they are better equipped to accomplish big goals. (Kania, 2011 ) Below are some guiding principles to consider when considering and developing partnerships in your community:

  • Effective partnerships are guided by the common foundational principles of the participating organizations. 
  • They are formed within a geographic region (City, County, State, or Country), but can be at the global level depending on the organizations involved and purpose of the partnership. The size of the geographic region is guided by the overarching goal of the partnership and can be expanded as the program grows.
  • Partnerships expand the mission of both organizations through shared commitments and resources, this may or may not involve the transfer of financial resources. 
  • They are consultative and jointly owned. Both parties agree on the objectives and results to be achieved, including the implementation strategies and resources each partner will contribute. ( Unicef, 2017 )

Guiding Principles of Effective Partnerships:

Effective partnerships share in the same big goal and they share foundational beliefs about the issue or challenge they are seeking to address. They have targeted skill sets and resources that when brought together enhance and expand the mission of both target organizations through consultative and joint ownership of the issue. (Unicef, 2017) They are other-focused; effective partners don’t say, “What can this organization do for us?”. Instead, they ask, “What value do I bring to this partner?” or “How does this partnership bring together assets that when combined can create a bigger impact?”

Real-World Partnerships

Working together toward a common goal is a common theme among partnerships. At both Hope & A Future and House of Refuge, the mission of the organization is a driving force behind its partnerships. Uniting people around the common vision of the organization is one of the key aspects of many of the partnerships that they have developed.

At Hope & A Future, they highlighted the relationship aspect of the partnership. Explaining that all good partnerships have an aspect of give and take within their development. They highlighted one key ongoing partnership they have with a partner organization. This partnership has provided strong support for Hope & A Future throughout its 15 years. They provide funding, volunteers, and material contributions to the organization. In return, Hope & A Future provides resources for public outreach with the organization and engages in a joint furthering of the mission. Overall, partners are key to furthering the mission of the organization both in providing support administratively, financially and through public outreach.

The House of Refuge points to the role of advocating within partnerships as a key reason that they have created many partnerships. For the purposes of this discussion, we spoke specifically with the education and employment director at the House of Refuge to highlight their partnerships as they relate to the education and employment arm. They highlighted the need to work within a variety of sectors including for-profit, educational, and government sectors to develop a strong system of partnership to support the organization. The House of Refuge identified advocating for their members as a common theme for why they developed partnerships. This applied to partnerships within the for-profit sector to facilitate job searches for the members they serve, provide skill-based workshops, and other support. With educational partners, they work to provide tutoring support, financial assistance, and advocacy support for the youth within the program.


Kania, J., Kramer, M., & Kania, J. (2011). Collective Impact (SSIR). Retrieved October 18, 2019, from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/collective_impact. (Links to an external site.)

Sustaining the Movement: Promoting Quality Collective Impact. (2014). Retrieved October 18, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfvfAluDK3g. (Links to an external site.)

UNICEF. (2017). Framework for Partnerships. Civil Society Partnerships. Retrieved From: https://www.unicef.org/about/partnerships/index_60043.html (Links to an external site.)