While an individual’s skills in engaging resource partners can greatly influence success, it is also helpful to consider some key ingredients to Resource Mobilization (RM), even if it often comes down to a blend of factors and seizing the opportunity. Bearing in mind that outreach and interaction with partners should be carefully coordinated to avoid competing messages.
For one of our partners we drafted a paper that focused on how to approach RM, and we presented some factors to consider upfront, before launching into a fully-fledged programme or project idea. The RM process was described through five practical key steps. While the steps presented represent a generic approach to attracting resources, the requirements involved in each step can differ when dealing with specific partners/clients.
The five steps presented can help reflect and will help you design an RM Strategy or Action Plan to ‘market’ your programme or project.
Before you start
RM is largely about “making the match” between an organisation’s/project comparative advantage, contextual priorities and partners’ interests, see figure below. The better the organization gears its comparative advantage and service offerings to the contextual priorities and the partners’ interests/needs, the easier common interest areas can be identified.
Before launching into a full-fledged RM effort, it is important to consider the following issues upfront.
Strategy and Action Planning/Marketing
Designing an RM Strategy and Action Plan can help structure and guide the RM effort. The advantages are that it:
- focuses RM efforts on the higher-level results of the strategic framework
- coordinates the approach to partners/clients
- avoids confusing messages to partners/clients
- sets RM priorities and avoids fragmented efforts
- creates joint ownership and accountability
- leads to planned, upfront, pipeline resources
- ultimately, leads to comprehensive service/project delivery and broad impact
A team approach to the RM Strategy and Action Plan will ensure that skills, talents and contacts are formally identified and monitored to ensure that responsibilities, success and rewards are shared. It is advised that each team:
- nominate an RM lead person with the requisite skills to provide support and direction to RM efforts, liaising closely with relevant colleagues
- consider assigning specific partner/client liaison roles/focal points to employees
- encourage all team members to utilize every opportunity to engage partners/clients and promote the organisation, its strategic directions and its service offerings
- integrate RM as part of the team’s strategic priorities to ensure RM progress is reported on and monitored (e.g. as an agenda item in team meetings, reports from missions, etc.)
When developing the RM Strategy and Action Plan, it is helpful to consider the process as five steps for implementation. The flow of the five steps is shown in the graph below.
Step 1, identifying partners/clients, is an ongoing process. It requires continuous updating of the details and specificities of potential resource partners. We can provide annexes with templates for a matrix with some pointers on where to begin. Research on potential funding sources, partners and clients should include web searches, subscribing to e-mail circulars, broad reading on the subject, joining networks or groups (e.g. local donor forums or coordination groups) and by word of mouth and informal meetings.
Below are possible roles stakeholders can play.
a) Donors and other Funding Sources. They provide support in terms of funding. This is usually formalized through a proposal submitted to this type of stakeholder.
b) Partners. These are organizations that can have multiple functions in terms of collaboration. This is usually formalized through a MOU or other type of partnership agreement to conduct the following:
- Joint proposal development for resource mobilization
- Capacity development – building and enhancing capacity of an organisation or project
- Offering consultancy services that complement an organisation’s capacity and-or in order to provide capacity a project, team does not have in-house (at short notice)
- Joint advocacy based on findings of (meta-analysis of) offered services and exchange of information to sensitize stakeholders
- Co-authorship of publications of joint work
Note: Competitors are also classified as partners because they could be requested by the MLE Unit to offer complementary services as explained above or develop a joint proposal for funding.
c) These are the organizations or companies that are potentially interested to request for the services offered by MLE Unit. This is usually formalized through a service provision contract. Clients depending on their nature could also be classified as partners in certain contexts
In addition to financial resources (from donors for programs or from clients who pay for services), other forms of support for programme or project delivery may be available via in-kind contributions such as human resources, or goods and services through partnerships for collaboration and sub-contracting. A wide range of such ways of cooperation can be pursued to support a project or organisation’s work.
Gathering information on partners
Mobilizing resources requires detailed knowledge of partners, their priorities, policies, budgets, rules and procedures. Asking the following pertinent questions can help guide the research:
Priorities of funding partners
- Is the country or region a geographic priority for the funding partner? Does the partner have a country or region specific strategy or any ongoing initiatives that could be relevant?
- What are the resource partners’ main areas of intervention in general? Within the country or region?
- How much financial support has the resource partner recently been giving in relation to what a project/organization requests?
- What is the record of the resource partner in funding initiatives in general and in the country or region?
Processes of funding partners
- Does the funding partner have any preconditions to be met before financing?
- What is the programming cycle of the funding partner? What is the calendar for submitting requests and/or calls for proposals?
- What schemes does the funding partner have (e.g. grants, loans)?
- How can the partners’ funding approach be influenced with regard to the required?
- What are the procedures for submitting project proposals?
- Is there a focal point in your country or region?
Demands of potential clients
- Quality service/product
- High expertise and advisory skills (offer technical authority and options to achieve results)
- Value for money
- Timely and fast service
- Credible service/product
- Adaptability and innovation
Processes of acquiring clients
- Direct request for service provision (pay per service)
- Contracting (pay for menu of services up to certain value)
Qualities of collaborating partners
- Complementary skills (what the organisation, project does not have)
- Supplementary capacity (what the organisation, project has, but not sufficient and/or not available at requested time/duration)
Processes of partnering
- Direct request for service provision (sub-contracting via pay per service)
- (Sub-)contracting (pay for menu of services up to certain value)
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or collaboration agreement (partners in tender or funding proposal according to conditions)
Step 2 involves seizing every opportunity to build strong relationships and favourably influencing decision-makers regarding the programme or project for which resources are sought. It means establishing and maintaining open and regular dialogue with partners to build mutual trust and respect. The bullets below offer some valuable tips.
Make sure your engagement is:
- Face to face – Organize a meeting or presentation. Being present at key technical meetings as a knowledge broker raises the MLE Unit’s visibility and demonstrates the value-added of its work. Invite partners to the field to see the organisation, project in action.
- Short and snappy – A concept note or project outline is the best way to provide a short overview of the organisation and its service offerings or project ideas. Most partners/clients prefer to see an initial overview as an invitation to collaborate, rather than receive a full-fledged proposal or pricelist of service offerings.
- Appealing – Design an attractive brochure or multipurpose fact sheets introducing the main challenges that you can (help) address. Focus on the benefits for the partners and the potential impact that can be achieved, not only on the activities/services.
- Personal – Find out the name of the person responsible and tailor individual letters or e-mails to each potential partner/client. Then, follow up.
- Thorough – Make sure concept notes and project proposals are founded within your strategic framework and are related to the partner’s priorities or that the service offerings are addressing the needs of potential clients.
- Up to date – Develop or update websites to ensure the organisation’s visibility to complement other communication means like brochures, annual/project reports etcetera.
- Well timed – Ensure your request is in sync with a partner’s funding cycle or meets client’s tender deadlines.
- Demonstrates track record – Use recent achievements to show the organisation’s capacity to deliver.
- Keep in touch – Establish regular exchange of information so partners/clients have a good knowledge of the organisation’s comparative advantage.
- And do not forget to use every opportunity – All employees should seek out opportunities to meet, engage and present organisation and its strategic directions and service offerings to potential partners and clients.
Engaging partners/clients is a continual process. This is especially true when developing concept notes and programme/project proposals as well as an up-to-date list of service offerings. The concept notes and programme/project proposals should be prepared in collaboration with prospective partners; the list of service offerings should be kept up-to-date by scouting the needs of potential new but also existing clients – by engaging them. The concept note and service offerings list provide a snap-shot of the organisation’s rationale, its focus and what it offers. It helps to structure a preliminary analysis of the relevance, feasibility and sustainability of the project idea or of the probability to become the preferred service provider to address a client’s needs.
Engaging partners goes well beyond initial scoping or testing of interest with a potential partner/client through presenting a concept note or sharing a service offerings overview. Every step of the RM process should be leveraged as an opportunity to further engage and build partner/client rapport. Building relationships requires strong interpersonal skills to engage partners/clients effectively. This is a distinct skillset whereby a person is not only well-versed in the organisation’s strategic directions and service offerings, but also has the requisite communication and negotiation skills to “market the organisation and/or its services”. Considering when, where and how best to engage partners/clients, and who on the team should take the lead, helps to strengthen the RM Action Plan, through assigning specific tasks to each member of the team.
Because this step involves a complex set of knowledge and skills, it is essential that the organisation has on hand the appropriate support mechanisms within the organisation to proceed successfully.
When it comes to finalizing the conditions of funding partnerships or service delivery client contracts, including the relevant procedures, rules and regulations, it is important to understand the different types of agreements that might be reached.
It is of utmost importance that the organisation receives expert advice from the larger organisation on finalizing the agreement to ensure that the agreement is in line with legal frameworks. Before reaching a signed agreement, check that the partner’s conditions of agreement comply with organisational rules and regulations, in particular, look out for:
- Legal rules and regulations
- Procurement processes
- Financials and Audit – payment schedules, budget and reporting
- Recruitment – Human Resources
- Cover of other than implementation costs – for the different kinds of agreements
Once all conditions have been met and clearances have been provided the contract can be signed.
4. MANAGE AND REPORT
Step 4 involves acknowledging the obligations, often spelled out in the agreement. This step is crucial to maintaining good relations with a partner/client and forms the bedrock of potential ongoing collaboration. Therefore, it must not be overlooked. It is essential that the contractual requirements be well managed and effectively delivered, and that results be reported in a timely manner in agreement with the format agreed to with the partner/client. Acknowledging a partner’s contribution/assignment and thanking them for the support/work is an essential part of maintaining good relations, and securing future resources or projects.
Also crucial in acknowledging a partner/client’s contribution is providing them with regular feedback on progress of the work, including financial reporting, until the final product or service has been delivered. This may mean complying with a particular partner/client’s format for reporting, or at set intervals, or providing the funding partner with mid-term and end-of-term evaluations of the programme or project. The original contractual framework provides the overall means for reporting.
5. COMMUNICATE RESULTS
Communicating the value of partnering with the organisation, project is essential when engaging partners: as described, Steps 2 and 5 are closely connected. The preparation of a communication plan and quality communication materials are important. They convey a set of key messages about the project or service offerings for target audiences, providing an entry point for engaging partners/clients and focusing discussion.
Communication for RM includes broadly communicating about the organisation’s work and comparative advantages, as well as specific projects or client’s needs it can address. It also is about ensuring that partners/clients are given appropriate visibility. The aim is to secure broad support for the organisation’s work, not only from the donor community, but also from civil society organizations, private sector and the general public.
Tools such as brochures, flyers, posters, press releases, special events, speeches, videos, web sites, and social media help communicate key messages about the organisation’s work, as well as services it can provide. They need not be expensive to successfully convey comparative advantages and convince potential partners/clients to commit resources or contract its services.
Illustrating the difference that an organisation, project makes in people’s lives and in addressing challenges is essential for effective communication. This brings the steps of implementation back to Step 1, because communicating a partnership’s success is the best way to encourage partners/clients to contribute additional resources or request for service delivery again.
If you like to receive annexes such as the RM Strategy & Action Plan Template, Existing/Potential Funding Partner Matrix Template, Existing/Potential Client Matrix Template, and-or Stakeholder Matrices please contact us.
Download the tools for developing an outreach strategy for resource mobilization
To download the tools for developing an outreach strategy for resource mobilization, please find the link below.