Putting Together an Agreement

Once you have found a partner and a partnership model, you will need to put together a formal agreement addressing relevant issues, procedures and responsibilities.

The agreement can be written or verbal. While the idea of a written document may sound daunting, it's useful to have if there are conflicts, disagreements or changes in your partnership (hopefully, of course, there won't be). And it doesn't have to be any more than a letter or a memorandum of understanding signed by the relevant business and community group representatives. It can save you time, trouble and heartache down the track.

For an example of a written agreement, click here.

Note: This paper is no more than a general guide to broad principles, and where significant resources are involved all parties would be wise to seek professional legal advice.

A written agreement can detail a number of points, including:

1 - The Basics

  • The partnership's purpose: (For example: "This partnership is a sponsorship agreement between Smithville Contractors and the Main Street Hockey Club.")
  • How each partner and the wider community is to benefit from the agreement.
  • The expected duration, or how the partnership will end (perhaps when a specified outcome is achieved).
  • The resources each group will contribute, and how each party will draw on those resources.
    • For example: "The Grasstree Environment Group will contribute volunteer resources to the partnership, drawing on its members and their families." Or "Wendle and Son Lawyers will offer the partnership pro bono resources through the expertise and advice of staff member John Wendle Jr."
  • Specify the responsibilities of each partner.
    • For example: "Grasstree Environment Group will be responsible for completing the on-ground work set out in the attached plan, while Dinkum Nurseries will be responsible for supplying any materials, trees or other items needed to complete that work. Parties will jointly select any trees to be planted depending on available stock and the area in which the planting is taking place."
2 - Procedures and People
  • Contact people in each organisation who will be responsible for project liaison.
  • Deputies in each organisation who will keep abreast of the partnership and step in if the contact person is unavailable or incapacitated.
  • Procedures for decision-making in the partnership.
  • What is the governance structure? (Are there any officially constituted temporary or permanent joint project committees, consultative committees, advisory boards, or similar agencies involved, or are matters handled directly between the designated representatives of each partner? If there are committees, how will they be constituted and what will their terms of reference be?)
  • Who is ultimately responsible for making decisions?
  • Meeting details. (Frequency, time, location, personnel, and provisions for extraordinary meetings.)
  • Procedures to amend the partnership (such as changing the partnership model, the personnel involved or the length or scope).
  • Ground rules for events organised within the partnership. (For example: "Any volunteer activities will need to be approved by both parties, in writing, at least three days before the date scheduled".)
  • How partners' names, logos and initials will be used (particularly in sponsorship-based partnerships).
  • Rules on third-party involvement (such as working with a council or another group).
  • How your partnership will deal with the media (including who is allowed to speak to the media and how information will be communicated with the media).
  • Any procedures covering volunteer management or risk management.
  • Where expenditure is involved, a draft budget specifying the contributions to be made by each partner (and procedures for agreeing to budget variations, distributing profits, and who will be responsible for any unanticipated liabilities, costs or delays on partnership projects.
  • Clear conflict resolution procedures. (Conflicts can be resolved through meetings or mediation; having a procedure in place is vital to ensure they are dealt with properly and to the satisfaction of both partners.)
  • Any inappropriate behaviour that would lead to the agreement being terminated, or individuals losing their role. (For example: "Any criminal behaviour by a partner will result in the partnership being ended immediately".)
  • Procedures for the termination of the partnership. (For example: "The partnership may be terminated without cause by either party, provided that six months' notice is given.")
3 - Reviewing and Evaluating
  • How often the partnership will be evaluated (for example, after events, monthly, bi-monthly or a combination.)
  • The tools or methods that will be used to evaluate the partnership.
  • How community feedback will be obtained.

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