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4 Ways to Launch Successful Association Partnerships

Marketing Audra Hopkins

There’s a lot to gain from a successful association partnership. Investing in a partnership can increase revenue, secure new memberships, and bring new value to existing members. But how does your association find a successful partnership?

Partnerships provide unique benefits to both associations and their partners. Associations can save costs while also strengthening projects and programs. In return, associations provide a service to their partners they can equally benefit from. The result is a symbiotic collaboration between the two organizations.

Web Scribble spoke with both sides of a new, fruitful partnership between the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) and Mohawk College. Both parties had a lot to say on their partnership: how it started, how it’s grown, and how other associations can replicate their success.


What to look for in a partnership

What should your association be looking for when building a new partnership? There’s a lot of different factors to consider.

When Mohawk College was looking for an association to partner with they had a few different objectives in mind. “We considered things like membership reach– how many members the association had– and what benefits or programs they already provide,” said Evan DiValentino. Evan works for the Continuing Education department at Mohawk College and is in direct contact with CARA for their partnership.

The partnership between CARA and Mohawk College had a positive beginning because both parties knew what they were looking to gain from working together. For example, CARA already provided a certification benefit to its members that Mohawk College saw potential in bringing to its students. In return, CARA saw potential growth from a partnership with Mohawk College.

When choosing a partner, it’s important to look for organizations that have a similar mission. An example of a good partnership is the one between the Women in Trucking Association and Expediter services, a driving service company. Both organizations have the similar goal of benefitting drivers.

Once you find an organization that fits your association’s needs, figure out what’s most important to gain from a partnership. Creating a set list of standards and objectives will help create an agreement that works for both parties. If you go into a partnership with specific standards, you’ll see more success in the long run. Finding the perfect balance between both collaborators is key for a strong partnership.


Offering enhanced programs/benefits through a partnership

One of the main reasons partners come together is to create a product or service for their audience. It takes two parties working side by side to offer something they couldn’t have done alone. How do you offer the best for your members?

For the CARA-Mohawk College partnership, this benefit was the Research Administration Certificate. Offered fully online, the certification can be completed within a year and opens doors for those looking to advance and establish their career in research administration.

It’s important to work with a partner in order to create a new, effective benefit for members. If audiences see an exclusive offer from a partnership, it could convince them to stick with your association helping you increase member renewals.

Look at what your partner can offer its audience and see how that relates to your association’s benefits. Is there a service that would coincide with an annual event? What would your members benefit most from? Keeping the needs of members in mind helps put a partnership service in perspective.

CARA and Mohawk’s combined efforts have created a program that would not have existed without one another. Evan claims that there is a high retention for students looking to continue with the certification next semester.

Overall, you want members to see the value in a new partnership. Providing new programs and benefits can help convey this message.


How to overcome roadblocks in a new partnership

When creating a new partnership between two organizations, there’s always bound to be a few setbacks. What are some ways to tackle these roadblocks for a smooth, successful experience? Well, there’s a lot to consider.

First, it’s important to acknowledge when roadblocks occur. You want to identify the problem so you can immediately try to solve it. This is where consistent communication with your partner comes into play. Keep each other in the loop in order to easily catch problems before they get any worse.

One way Mohawk College has stayed on top of troubleshooting issues is through surveying students. Students are surveyed at the beginning, middle, and end of the course. This provides efficient survey results.

“There’s always minor roadblocks anytime there’s a partnership. You just have to come up with an agreement that works,” Evan stated.

Whatever the setback may be, open communication channels and a strategy to overcome problems will help overcome it.


Creating goals for the future

Once a partnership has had time to blossom and see results, it’s time to think about future plans. What more are you looking to gain from your partner? Is there an opportunity to grow in a different area?

Often times, when partners first meet to talk about goals, things are forgotten or left out. It’s almost impossible to know what each side wants from a partnership when first meeting to work things out. This is why it’s important to meet after some time to discuss future plans.

It’s also important to base future ventures off of statistics rather than predicting the outcome. Creating a plan based off of assumptions is risky and leaves more room for error. Make sure your plans are realistic and based off of present results.

“We don’t want to be prescriptive and try to speculate the need of CARA’s members in the future,” says Evan.

Mohawk College and CARA, while a new partnership, are focused on the current feedback from students enrolled in the program. These results can be used to create a strategy for any future plans the partnership may pursue.

Following these tips can lessen the stress of starting a new partnership in the future. Like the partnership between Mohawk College and CARA, your association can also see a mutually beneficial relationship that promotes success and growth.

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