Why Your Team Needs a Signed MOU with Project Partners
Project partnerships with community organizations and local businesses are crucial to the growth and sustainability of your project.
However, these partnerships often break down over time around conflicts surrounding expectations, especially as the project moves into critical phases where the investment of time or money is increased substantially.
While these tensions aren't entirely avoidable, detailing the responsibilities and expectations of each partner within a signed MOU provides a solid foundation towards establishing an enduring professional relationship.
Download the template MOU that Rutgers Enactus uses at the bottom of this article.
Why a Signed MOU is Important
1) Forces team to get precise about needs and expectations
An MOU establishes clear communication around the objectives, terms, and expectations surrounding the project.
When you have a clear understanding of the role(s) and expectations of community partners, you're going to set the partnership up for success.
A lack of clarity and understanding around who is responsible for the various aspects of a project will certainly become a source of conflict and stress.
Developing the MOU is a process, and you'll need to engage in numerous rounds of conversation with your community partner to understand the needs and expectations of both parties.
The result of that process is the ability to confidently sign an MOU that both org's can stand behind.
2) Creates accountability within your team
When your team starts establishing relationships with community partners, you begin to formalize and professionalize your organization in an important way.
These organizations will begin developing an important impression of your organization as they work with your team.
A single bad experience with your Enactus team can damage your reputation within that community for years.
A signed MOU helps communicate to your team members the importance of this project (and relationship) which should help reinforce everyone's commitments to upholding the terms of the agreement.
It's one thing to skip a meeting and let down your team members, its another thing to skip a meeting with a community partner and let them down.
3) Builds perception of your org's professionalism
Most local non-profits don't immediately think a student-led organization has a high degree of professionalism or reliability.
Therefore most local organizations seek out college students for low-impact transactional type volunteering events (like a clean up day).
However, your Enactus team is much more than a student organization, and your team is intent upon establishing its own professionalism and credibility so that you can create sustainable impact.
A signed MOU places your team on the path towards developing long-term professional relationships with strong community partners.
Note: To build trust and to develop your relationship with a partner org, your team may choose to engage in numerous volunteer focused events with the organization entirely on their terms (such as a neighborhood cleanup). This type of volunteerism can be very strategic in building the trust and confidence with a partner that will open up opportunities to engage in deeper more meaningful work.