Category Archives: Partnerships

When I started my business in 2013, I was committed to serving as an independent consultant. This seemed easy – I didn’t have to oversee other people’s work and I could have complete autonomy about the clients and work I chose to pursue. However, as any small business owner knows, it is difficult (and quite nearly impossible) to operate any small business on your own. While you may be able to complete the actual work yourself – developing and selling a product or service to clients, you will likely need help with many back end functions such as accounting support, social media and email outreach, website and graphic design, and countless other tasks. You may even need help with the work itself – what if you get too busy or you need someone with a specialized set of skills or knowledge to complete a task?

When my business was in its infancy, I attended a Grant Professionals Association conference in Baltimore. I was scared about the competitiveness with other consultants and also becoming a business owner and learning how to manage my work. However, once I started speaking with other consultants, they were extremely helpful, offered a great deal of advice and feedback, and were even willing to follow-up afterwards. This made me realize that our ability to work together is powerful and that competition, while it can be healthy, is actually a deterrent. My work with other consultants and small firms actually helps my business in many ways.

People like Ayda Sanver and Kenya Lucas-Matos, with whom I have worked on a number of different projects, actually feeds my growth. Also, when I first started, Heather Stombaugh gave me a chance by retaining me as a subcontractor for almost a year. I also leverage the skills and expertise of others to provide bookkeeping support and social media management to ensure that the administrative tasks do not fall off the radar.

My point is that working alone does not make you smarter, it just means you are going to work harder. While spending money on other functions may mean a loss of income, it also leads to greater income generation in the long-term. I guarantee a growth in your business once you start allocating functions and focusing on the work you do best. We work better when we collaborate. Perhaps you just need to find your key differentiator so you can stand out from others. Who are your key partners?


My children love hanging out with their friends, and I see how it is important for them to develop their own friendships. My son is almost six years old and is now more discerning about with whom he chooses to spend his time. I am also enjoying watching my daughter (not quite three) starting to navigate this world as well. As adults, we become more selective as we do not have as much time (or energy) to spend with as many people. The same can be said with organizations. While instead of friendships, we call these partnerships or collaborations. How exactly do these partnerships help us?

  1. may-703626_640Keeping us humble – Your work cannot be completed in a vacuum so working with other organizations allows you to stay true to your mission and not overstep your bounds.
  1. Staying on track – When you work with another organization on a grant, program or event, you have to align schedules and resources. This takes time and energy and ensures that you stay focused on what you need to achieve.
  1. Providing us with information – I often learn quite a bit from my colleagues on best practices, and the same can be said for your partners. Are they adding value to your work and providing you with important content and resources that you can leverage and are you sharing the same as well? This doesn’t always have to be a competitive dynamic.
  1. Achieving greater collective impact – Ultimately, you are all working towards the same goal although your approaches may be different. Funders love seeing collaborative grant proposals that indicate unique partnership agreements and collaborations.
  1. Sharing the load – Let’s face it, working to benefit the greater public good is hard work. It is nice to share the work so you don’t feel that it falls solely on your shoulders.

How are your partners going to help you grow and achieve more success?

When you think of peanut butter, don’t you think of jelly? These two go hand in hand. I had the pleasure of attending The Power Conference yesterday, a day for women entrepreneurs to learn from one another, learn some new skills, and network. My takeaway is that everyone needs a partner in order to sustain and grow organizations, programs, and projects. Whether these are business to business, funder to grantee, contractor to contracting agency or  consultant to organization, these partnerships are all important.  pic_social_science_degree

  1. Growth: The more people involved, the more resources able to think of innovative solutions, ideas, and brainstorm. A heated dialogue can often lead to a more robust process, and each person can bring a unique perspective.
  2. Complementary Services: Not everyone can do everything. Subject matter experts and other key personnel and organizations may offer customized services or products that only enhance your offerings, and lead to greater social impact.
  3. Knowledge: Don’t you always learn from other who challenge and inspire you? Find individuals that do that and add that to your team. These partnerships can enhance your capacity to be a thought leader in the community or industry.
  4. Communications: There are many ways in which we communicate – in-person, electronically, phone, videoconference, and we have to manage various types of partners. The experience of working through these various lenses can help strengthen what you are seeking to achieve, as you will become a well-versed project manager.
  5. Repeatability: Each partnership is a relationship, and partners can work together on various projects and in various capacities. If you really like working with a partner, why wouldn’t you want to work together again? This helps both of you succeed, and leads to greater achievements down the road.

The best partnerships come from a place of mutual support, respect, and shared vision. What partners make your work more successful?