1. Sign a partnership agreement
This is a MUST MUST MUST! A partnership agreement should outline in detail what each partner will do, with deadlines. Be as specific as possible, to avoid disputes later on.
If the bidding process is over a long period, you may want to sign a short initial agreement which states your intention to work together, with a view to making a more detailed agreement if the funding bid is successful.
2. Get the right partners
Make sure you have the right partners that bring the expertise and experience needed. Do not include organisations just to be polite! Collaboration is business.
3. Can you work together?
You must have a level of trust or “gut feeling” that you will work well together. This is the foundation of a good working relationship. Visit each other’s premises, get to know other people in the partner organisations, make sure there is a similar “culture” and shared values.
4. Check out each organisation’s ability and capacity
This is formally known as “due diligence”. Before entering a partnership, check that the partners all have the ability AND capacity to do what they say they will do. Particularly, you need to be confident that the lead partner has the ability and capacity to fulfil their leadership role.
5. Budget for the partnership working
In your application or tender, include costs of partnership meetings both during the set-up phase and once the project begins. Maybe you need to hire an independent consultant to facilitate the partnership through the tendering process and to manage the initial stages of the project set-up, such as staff recruitment? Will you need to hire venues for planning meetings?
6. Get good financial and legal advice
Partnership working is more complex than running a project as a single organisation, so get expert advice and factor this into the budget.
7. Work out the risks
Use a standard approach to doing a risk analysis. Identify all the risks and work out as a partnership how likely each of the risks is, and what you can do to mitigate (prepare for) them. Sharing these discussions early on will stand you in good stead for when the risks become realities.
8. Allow extra time
When you work as a partnership, EVERYTHING takes more time. Build it into your workload.
9. Write a fantastic bid
Get the best people on the bid-writing; you may be competing against larger organisations that have professional bid-writers or fundraisers. A public-sector funder may have to follow tendering rules, so they will not be able to make allowances for poor quality bids, even if they know you well.
10. Plan regular opportunities for review
Once the project is up and running, make sure you build in plenty of time to discuss how things are going and to air difference in a constructive way. Debate is healthy, silence leads to trouble.