How to Amplify Your Association’s Impact With Partnerships

Let’s say your association, which is focused on the conservation of national parks, enters a partnership with a successful tech company. Through this partnership, your association receives financial support, professional expertise, and in-kind donations of technology you can use to further your mission. This allows you to offer more desirable benefits for members at every membership tier, encouraging upgrades and boosting retention.

On the flip side, this partnership benefits the tech company by demonstrating its dedication to social responsibility, enhancing its image, and providing expertise from association members with knowledge of and experience with conservation.

Partnerships can help your association (and the partner) do the things you aren’t able to accomplish alone. In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of association partnerships and how your organization can find the right partner:

  • What are the types of association partnerships?

  • Why should associations enter partnerships?

  • How should your association select a partner?

The process of finding the right partner for your association can be challenging. After all, your partner must align with your values, be willing to support your association, and have a positive impact on your organization. To keep each step of this process organized, you can use your association management system (AMS) to manage potential partners, store details about partnerships, and plan out your goals for the relationship.

Before researching and engaging with other organizations regarding possible alliances, however, it’s important to understand the different types of partnerships and why your association should enter one. Let’s get started!

What are the types of association partnerships?

Association partnerships can take many forms, and they don’t always involve your association and a business. In addition to corporate partnerships, you can team up with other types of organizations to create collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships.

Here are the main types of organizations your association might partner with:

  • Businesses: Associations may partner with businesses for financial support, access to advice and resources, and increased exposure and influence (if the business is well-known). For example, you might work with a web development company with an interest in your mission to revamp and maintain your website.

  • Other associations: Partnerships with fellow associations offer resource-sharing and cross-promotion to your respective audiences. For example, you might pair up with a similar association and host a joint conference or event to both reduce costs and encourage your members to mingle.

  • Nonprofit organizations: If your association is focused on furthering a good cause, it could benefit greatly from a partnership with a nonprofit. Nonprofits often have much more fundraising expertise, a built-in base of loyal donors and volunteers, and grant opportunities you can help them secure. Additionally, you can pool financial and educational resources to have a greater impact on your community.

The partnerships you choose should align closely with your association’s current needs and your overarching goals and values. This means choosing a partner that will accelerate progress toward short-term goals, like improving members’ sense of community, and your broader goals, like enacting large-scale change for your mission.

Why should associations enter partnerships?

It’s easy to see the upsides of a partnership when considering resource sharing and financial support. But, these initial and foundational advantages can translate into long-lasting benefits for your association and its members.

Here are some of the ways a partnership can benefit your organization:

  • Access to a new audience: There may be some overlap between you and your partner’s audience, but they will likely have supporters, employees, or members who haven’t heard of your association before. This can help you to grow your membership by tapping into a new group that is likely to resonate with your mission or focus.

  • Heightened member engagement: Because partnerships allow you to do things you cannot do on your own, you can organize events, activities, and opportunities that engage your members. If you work with a marketing agency or event planning consultant, for example, you’ll be able to create more captivating marketing campaigns and conferences to engage members.

  • Improved benefits for members: Because of partnerships, your association can have more events through shared resources and collaborations, conduct networking opportunities with new people, and make larger strides to help causes they care about. Additionally, members could gain free or discounted access to the partner’s resources (e.g., members of your environmentally-focused association get access to protective gear for litter clean-up days from your nonprofit partner).

  • Expanded network: In addition to opening up networking opportunities for members, your partners can introduce your association to a completely new network of business connections that you can leverage in the future. One of these connections may even be a future partner. For example, if you have outdated, inaccurate data, your initial tech company partner might refer you to a data analysis company that will clean up your files.

Once you have selected a partner (or are in the process of creating a partnership), routinely check in to make sure that the partnership is offering some or all of these benefits to your association. This will ensure that the relationship remains mutually beneficial.

How should your association select a partner?

You’ll need to do your due diligence to find a partner that aligns with your values, has your best interests in mind, and can provide the resources that will benefit your association the most.

These strategies can help you find a partner that checks all of your association’s boxes:

  • Leverage effective meeting strategies: You’ll need to meet with prospective partners before entering a partnership, whether over a video chat or in person. To ensure these meetings are effective uses of both parties’ time, make sure to prepare by researching the potential partner, putting together a list of questions you have for them, and providing ample time to cover all materials.

  • Track your interactions: If you end up speaking with several potential partners at once, make sure to record those interactions within your AMS. Keep notes about the dates of meetings and what was discussed so you can track the progress of the relationship. Additionally, these notes can be useful if you need to reconnect with one of these organizations at a future time.

  • Identify objectives, roles, and expectations: Before setting up any meetings with potential partners, identify what your association wants to get out of a partnership. Lay out specific, measurable goals along with your and your partner’s responsibilities. Define your expectations for a potential partner and what they can expect from you. For example, you might specify the timeframes they should respond within (e.g., within two business days) or your shared revenue goals (e.g., “We want to generate $5,000 as a result of the partnership”).

Depending on the resources available to you and your partner, consider working with a lawyer to draft a contract. This holds both parties accountable and is especially important if there will be any exchange of funding, intellectual property, or other resources.


When your association takes the time to find, interview, and enter a partnership with another organization, you could see a variety of benefits from increased engagement among existing members to an enhanced, more credible reputation. Overall, remember that your partnership should be mutually beneficial, will require effort and support from both parties, and must have a net positive impact on your association.