Initiating a Partnership

Almost all businesses - even local small businesses - have something they can offer a partnership with a community group, and almost anything that is able to be offered would interest a community group of some sort.

Have confidence in what your business can do in terms of a partnership, what it has to offer and what could be achieved in partnership with a community group.

Once you've considered your business's abilities, features, specialities and possible synergies with a community group, it's time to find one.

Talk to existing contacts about groups they're familiar with or involved with; search the local area for groups that seem to be willing; speak with staff about groups they know of; or use Our Community's brokerage service.

While many community groups proactively seek out partnerships, some lack the resources to do so or may have been rejected by those businesses they've tried.

There are very few community groups that would turn away a potential business supporter who wanted to join forces to further their work in the community.

Once you've identified a prospective partner, do some research:

  • LOOK at the work they do in the community - does it have a common thread or link to your business's aims and goals?
  • HAVE you come across the group's leaders in your day-to-day business or do you know other local businesses that have? Ask them what they are like to deal with.
  • LOOK at local media and see if the groups have been featured in any recent newspaper or magazine articles. Do they regularly appear in the media and are they regarded as leaders in their field?
  • SEARCH the group's website. Many groups have their own sites and many provide a good deal of information on their activities, vision, upcoming projects as well as the people behind the group.
  • ASK the group for the last couple of annual reports. These too are mines of information and provide financial data as well as a good insight into their outcomes for the year.
  • TALK to staff in your business who may know more about the groups, or who have suggested them as possible partners. Many businesses support groups where staff and their families are actively involved.
  • VISIT the group's office if they have one, and pick up some flyers or other information about them. Talk to the group leaders and ask them their views on community business partnerships.
  • TALK to any other businesses that have partnered the group and find out about the benefits and challenges of working with them.
Whether or not you first approach the group in person, it's a good idea to put your proposal in writing to communicate exactly what you think you can offer and what you would like in return. Be careful not to take a patronising approach. This is a partnership of equals - treat them with respect.

For examples of letters you might send, click here.

Once you've sent the letter, follow up with a meeting to discuss the proposal and seek feedback from the prospective partner. If they decline, ask why - it's useful feedback - and ask if they're aware of other groups within their sector that might be interested instead.