Identifying & Securing Strategic Partnerships: Insights from Association Leaders

13 Jun 2024 4:22 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

In today’s association landscape, strategic partnerships are key to driving growth and innovation. During the recent webinar panel discussion "Identifying & Securing Strategic Partnerships," AuSAE members shared their insights on forming and maintaining effective collaborations.

The panel featured three association leaders: Thomas Dunsmore, CEO of Torres Strait Kaziw Meta; Michelle Weston, CEO of the Caravan Parks Association of Queensland; and Declan Kelly, Head of Development at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA). Here are some key takeaways from the discussion.

The Importance of Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships are critical for associations, providing revenue streams and supporting organisational goals. Toni Brearley, CEO of AuSAE, emphasised their significance: “For associations, partnerships are a really important income stream for most of us. Strategic partnerships allow us to expand our reach and impact significantly without exponentially increasing our resources.”​​

Thomas Dunsmore: Building from Scratch

Thomas Dunsmore shared his approach at Torres Strait Kaziw Meta, a non-profit organisation, with no existing partnership program. Drawing on his experience from the Australian Boarding Schools Association, he implemented a comprehensive partnership strategy focusing on government and organisations dedicated to supporting indigenous communities. “We also have a sponsorship in-kind and pro bono partnership channel where we work with organisations like law firms to provide services for free,” Dunsmore noted​​. He emphasised the importance of creating mutually beneficial relationships, encapsulated in his "win, win, win" philosophy: "It's not just about winning for our organisation, but also for our partners and the members at large"​​.

Michelle Weston: Leveraging Industry Connections

Michelle Weston highlighted the importance of partnerships with businesses that can support their members and associations with complementary strengths. For the Caravan Parks Association of Queensland, partnerships extend beyond the immediate industry. Weston explained, “We do partnerships with businesses that can support our members…and partnerships with other associations where either we have a product that’s interesting and attractive”​​. She added, “It’s crucial to find partners who share our values and vision for the future, ensuring that the relationship is not only productive but also harmonious”​​.

Declan Kelly: Data-Driven Approach

Declan Kelly shared that the CBAA’s partnerships are guided by data-driven decisions to meet member needs. “For me, everything has to be data-driven. It needs to be informed by what your membership needs,” Kelly emphasised. This approach ensures that the partnerships not only elevate member needs but also leverage their extensive network, which includes 4 million weekly listeners across community radio stations​​. He also highlighted, “By understanding the specific needs and interests of our members through data, we can tailor our partnerships to provide maximum value and relevance”​​.

Trends in Strategic Partnerships

The panelists also discussed emerging trends that are shaping the future of strategic partnerships. Toni highlighted the shift towards more integrated and collaborative partnerships: “We are seeing a trend towards partnerships that go beyond mere sponsorships to more integrated and collaborative efforts that align closely with our strategic goals”​​.

Michelle Weston pointed out the growing importance of digital partnerships, especially in the wake of the pandemic. “Digital partnerships have become crucial, particularly as we navigate the post-pandemic landscape. These partnerships allow us to reach wider audiences and provide more value to our members through digital platforms”​​.

Declan Kelly observed a trend towards more purpose-driven partnerships, where organisations align with partners that share their mission and values. “There is a noticeable trend towards purpose-driven partnerships. Organisations are increasingly seeking partners who share their mission and values, which not only strengthens the partnership but also enhances its impact”​​.

Principles for Sourcing and Maintaining Partnerships

The panelists discussed the principles guiding their approach to partnerships. Kelly mentioned the importance of aligning partnerships with the organisation’s goals and ensuring mutual benefits. He said, “There are partnerships that elevate our member needs…partnerships with government or community…and partnerships that help us as a network”​​.

Engaging with Potential Partners

Engagement with potential partners should be strategic and informed by a clear understanding of the organisation’s needs and goals. Michelle Weston advised looking for partners with shared values and complementary assets. Similarly, Dunsmore highlighted the need for adaptability, especially when transitioning successful strategies from one context to another.

The insights from the webinar highlight the importance of strategic partnerships in achieving organisational objectives. By leveraging diverse approaches—from data-driven decision-making to leveraging industry connections and building from scratch—organisations can create robust partnerships that drive growth and innovation.

Whether you are starting a new partnership program or enhancing an existing one, these expert insights provide a valuable framework for identifying and securing strategic partnerships that align with your organisational goals.

To watch the On-Demand Webinar Panel Discussion on "Identifying and Securing Strategic Partnerships," visit, and sign in using your AuSAE membership credentials.

If you need further details or assistance, reach out to AuSAE at

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955

New Zealand Office:
Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677


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