Partnership v. Membership: Untangling the Knot

Partnership v. Membership Flax Associates

Note: the following is a guest blog from Elizabeth Weaver Engel of Spark Consulting. Spark helps associations grow by providing strategic membership and marketing advice and assistance.

In the coming weeks and months, Lewis and I will be looking at various aspects of association membership, sponsorship, and corporate partnership.

Properly structured, these three types of relationships can inter-relate and support each other, helping all the parties (members, suppliers, and the association) solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, these relationships are often structured at cross-purposes, with siloed departments being given goals that, at best, don’t complement each other and, at worst, are in direct opposition, leading to competition and conflict between departments, rather than one high-functioning team all working together to achieve the mission of the association.

Lewis and I have conceived of this series as an ongoing conversation between two association pros coming at this sometimes contentious topic from slightly different perspectives, one in which we’ll help our colleagues untangle the mess and achieve harmony among their staff members in different departments and among their members and the suppliers who serve the profession or industry those members engage in.

We’ll be taking on topics like:

  • What is the difference between partnership, membership, and sponsorship? How do they relate?
  • Who are appropriate prospects for supplier/corporate relationships? How do you find and nurture them?
  • How do you structure corporate relationships so that they’re to everyone’s benefit?
  • How do you educate your board of directors about the differences in types of corporate relationships?
  • How do you deal with internal conflict and departments with conflicting goals?
  • What is the ROI of corporate relationships? How do you show it?
  • How do you retain corporate partners? How do you increase the scope of those relationships over time?

What questions do you have about the role of suppliers in your profession or industry? Leave them in the comments or email them to ewengel@getmespark.comor lewis@flaxassociates.com,  and we’ll address them in a future post.