Boost Bonds With Fellow Associations Through Collaboration

Partnerships between associations can be a win for everyone involved, whether the goal is to create new content, cement the foundations of long-term relationships, or both. To achieve a successful partnership, groups need to approach the process with transparency and consistency.

Stephen Legault, MSW, CAE, director of knowledge, learning, and assessment at the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, learned early in his tenure that collaboration with the Endocrine Society would be a priority.

ACOFP’s executive director had a working relationship with the then executive director of the Endocrine Society. After they started in their roles, they contacted each other about the two associations collaborating on a project. Knowing that members of both groups were involved in diabetes care and management, the goal was to codevelop an e-learning certificate program on that topic.

“From our research, we know that about 50 percent of our member requests concern diabetes, which they deal with daily,” Legault said. “Our associations coming together helps both groups improve patient care; that’s what both of our memberships are about.”

From knowledge sharing to content creation, partnerships hold many opportunities for members and organizations. According to Legault, moving through the process with transparency and trust can help associations build a successful collaboration that can then extend beyond the scope of the initial project.

Communicate Early

When partnering with another association, it’s important to have clear conversations about shared goals, expectations, and how the desired outcomes will benefit both organizations.

“The beginning [of the project] felt a lot like a dance,” Legault said. “You want to determine general interest on both sides, how it would work, the framing of the partnership, the shared responsibility, who will take ownership of which parts, et cetera.”

ACOFP and the Endocrine Society communicated those shared goals to staff and to the subject-matter experts—member volunteers—from both associations.

“Overall, we had 12 subject-matter experts to help us create the content: six family physicians from ACOFP and six endocrinologists from the Endocrine Society,” Legault said. “That meant we had to do a lot of trust-building, for the two chairs of each group and for the members.”

Both associations also made sure to provide multiple opportunities for the 12-person group to gather virtually. Staff helped facilitate those conversations so that members understood the goals and expectations of the project and felt comfortable working together.

Since the certificate program covered many facets of diabetes care, staff from both associations also had to get comfortable handling ongoing feedback from experts and to ensure everyone was working together constructively.

“The association world is all about maintaining good relationships and trust with other organizations,” Legault said. “You want to have trust and transparency, both for staff and members.”

Communicate Often

Even though the e-learning certificate launched in February 2022, the two associations are still collaborating. The monthly planning calls the teams had during development have transitioned into calls on revisions, marketing, and new audiences to explore.

“Since the certificate is accredited yearly and diabetes is constantly changing, we need to be in frequent communication with one another regarding necessary changes to ensure we present the most updated information,” Legault said. “We’re now on our second annual review, and my colleagues from the Endocrine Society and I have just reached out to our subject-matter experts to review new materials.”

Collaboration has also extended beyond the certificate. According to Legault, both organizations keep one another aware of upcoming opportunities to share new information and resources.

“One of my colleagues at the Endocrine Society recently sent me a video she developed for their members, and I just modified it a little for our audience,” he said. “It’s just one of the ways we’re continuing the support and trust we have in one another.”

Ultimately, collaborations like these are a chance for associations to learn, connect, and build off one another’s strengths.

“Just like with our executive directors, you never know where your relationships will reconvene,” Legault said. “Keep your organization open to these experiences. If you can satisfy a need of your association members by facilitating these partnerships with other organizations, I think that’s a huge benefit.”


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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