How to develop alliances and partnerships

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How to develop alliances and partnerships

The size of your organisation or your capacity or capability doesn’t need to restrict you from achieving the high-level goal you have for each client. You could form an alliance or partnership to deliver the ideal service offering for each client.

Alliances vs partnerships

Up until now, your organisation may have been meeting (but not exceeding) the needs of your clients and key stakeholders. However, maybe you’re frustrated that specific client issues are just too big for your organisation to tackle alone. Or the time may have come for your organisation to expand or change service delivery.

Ramping up (or down) does not have to be a solo flight, you can find and form alliances and partnerships to help change scale and get results.

What are alliances?

An alliance in the context of the service industry can be:

A parallel relationship is another organisation that may look after the same primary market segment but at a different point on the client’s journey

A group of like-minded organisations that join to create a more significant impact. For example, Disability Alliance British Canada has funding partners across government as well as sector and foundations.

Understand your partnership options

Partnerships in the not for profit (NFP) sector are intended to achieve a greater impact than any organisation could generate on its own. There could be a financial return, support with marketing or other specialised fields.

One of the critical benefits for a corporate to partner with an NFP is to satisfy their Corporate Social Responsibility requirements.

A tactical partnership is more likely to be relevant when you need to manage a specific activity, outcomes or impact.  A partnership will be structured to suit both parties and may, in this context, be organised with one or more agreements to capture the joint approach or outcomes.

This ten-step workflow sets out the major steps to prepare your organisation to form either option.



Action thoughts


Focus on your primary market segment (this has the highest relevance and impact)

Ensure you have substantial evidence of what needs to be achieved for the client(s)


Reach out to your Primary Stakeholders (maybe they were considering some form of stimulus)

Avoid being in a bubble on your tactical plan


Confirm that your tactics line up with your strategy and Value Proposition

There could be a gap that you are not currently addressing or not well enough.  Activity should be consistent with your mission and purpose.  Seek advice if unsure


Have a high-level aspiration for your client(s).  What is the ultimate level of service you would like to be able to offer them?

Ensure there is a funding pathway or process to verify this.  “No funds - no go.”


Consider potential partners for an alliance or at least one for a partnership.  Focus on your needs first before adding in any other new outcome/impact

They may already be in your primary or secondary groups.  Explore leveraging existing relationships first. Focus on two dimensions - Cultural alignment and Practice alignment

6 (a)

Conduct a scan for any models that could demonstrate how the alliance/partnership could work

You are sure to find examples that fit your high-level aim and methods.  Search far and wide across jurisdictions and borders


Deepening on the scale of your tactics - consider a preliminary, more in-depth review and possible a scoping meeting (a primary stakeholder may be appropriate)

A ‘light touch” session may reveal insights that you were blind to, e.g. legislative change, new program launches etc.


Compile results in an assessment tool (can assist a committee/board review for approval)


Shortlist a logical group for an alliance and possibly 2 or 3 for potential partnerships


Subject to high-level approval by a governance body, conduct a session to test the scope via a trial (even desktop)

Review a project plan/approach with draft key responsibilities and actions


Conduct a trial/test of logic and plan and summarise critical outcomes for a sponsor (board/committee)

Ensure potential partners are in step with the opportunity to proceed to this point


Proceed/halt/adjust actions on each major responsibility and resolve via appropriate confirmation from members/partners

This should iron out any sticky points and identify if there is a gap to be filled by another member/partner


From plan to actions

Your governance model will indicate the final steps you need to take to consolidate the plan.  Typically, an alliance can be less formal, but you may need to form an entity or at least join one for the coalition to operate.

 Remember, the activity of the alliance or partnership must align with your mission and purposes. Failure to address that may expose your organisation to action that is not in line with your general or tied funding (or tax status).  You will have already addressed this (with appropriate advice) before advancing past Step 3.


How to create a compelling Value Proposition (Mission Statement)

How to evaluate market segments

How to develop strong supplier relationships

How to identify (and manage) Primary & Secondary Stakeholders

Victoria (Aust.) has a revised and updated toolset to aid partnership assessment and collaborative practice development.  It can be accessed here -

Australian scholar and prolific author on supply chain partnerships Dr John Gattorna explores current and futurist models that may be relevant to strategy and tactical partnerships.  You can browse here -\