Collaborative conversations, like dating, start with breaking the ice

Posted on September 07, 2011 by Pam Truitt

After I sent my colleague Diana Bucco, president of The Forbes Funds, an email telling her I was planning to crash her Strategic Alliances Forum, but would work for food, she found a spot for me on the agenda.

The half-day session was rich in content and attendance. I walked away with many take aways and new connections.

The agenda included:

1. An analysis of the 2011 Collaboration Prize top entries (Cindy Bailie, The Foundation Center)

2. How to find the right partner (Jo DeBolt, La Piana)

3. Jump starting the collaboration conversation (Kate Dewey and Kate Sphar of Dewey & Kaye)

4. Creative collaborations (Diana Bucco, The Forbes Funds)

5. Life after restructuring— Real stories (Pam Truitt, The Patterson Foundation).

Cloning pills are not yet available in the airport pharmacies, so I missed a couple of sessions.

I was particularly drawn to Dewey & Kaye’s presentation Starting the Conversation Within Your Organization. This is a burning issue among organizations that want to engage nonprofits in the partnership question, but don’t know how.

When Kate Dewey likened it to dating, there were lots of heads nodding in agreement.

Should I ask her out?

Will she like me?

What if she says no?

Dewey provided a few practical exercises that are parallel to those one might find on an online dating sites and encouraged participants to start on the first step.

1.     Conduct an environmental and organizational assessment.  Who am I? What makes me tick? What do I bring to the table? What’s really important vs. what do I perceive is important?

2.     Determine criteria for success.  What does my success look like? Will I be happy in a small cottage or do I need a waterfront mansion? Do I need bling for happiness or a partner who is down to earth?

3.     Determine key characteristics of compatible partner. Good dancer? Gourmet cook? Loves dogs?  Travel to familiar destinations or remote lands?

No matter how the conversation gets going, it takes a while to gel. The average time from first date to ‘partnership’ is about 18 months. This, according to Dewey, gives you and the partner enough space to find out if you’re right for each other.

What do you think about the amount of time it takes for business partnerships to evolve? Is 18 months too short, too long or about right?


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