Students at Brooklands Innovation Academy

Spotlight on: Partnerships

Results from April 2023 Panel Research

In April, over 200 panel members completed the UK Heritage Pulse survey on the theme of organisational partnerships.

The short survey focused on organisational partnerships and asked respondents their attitudes towards the sharing of information, resources, staffing and volunteers across the sector. Thank you to all of those who responded.

🔍 Click on any chart to zoom in.

Organisations say they would benefit from more partnerships – but not all know how to create them  

95% of respondents said they would benefit from working in closer partnership with others, now and in the future, with almost half (47%) agreeing with this statement very strongly. However, larger organisations (with turnover of over £1m pa) were less clear on this, with only 64% saying they would benefit.  

When asked if they knew how and where to access the support needed to create partnerships, 73% of respondents agreed overall they did – but only 15% agreed with this statement strongly. 

Limited capacity is the main barrier to knowledge and resource sharing – but smaller organisations would benefit from more connections

Whilst only 17% said that it was not a priority for them, nearly 3 in 4 respondents (73%) said that limited capacity in their organisation was a main barrier to greater knowledge and resource sharing between organisations. A significant proportion (38%) also said they felt that capacity for potential partners would be a barrier.  

Around 1 in 4 said that a lack of forums / spaces to explore partnership was also a barrier.  

What do you think are the main barriers to knowledge and resource sharing between organisations? 

Responses under 20% have been excluded.  

Graph showing main barriers to knowledge and resource sharing between organisations

Organisations with higher turnover (over £1m pa) were more likely to cite limited capacity as a barrier, while more of the smaller organisations said they did not have the connections or obvious partners to broker these kinds of relationships.  

What do you think are the main barriers to knowledge and resource sharing between organisations? 

Graph showing barriers to resource sharing between organisations, split by turnover

Larger organisations are much more likely to be part of and using networks than smaller organisations  

The majority of respondents said that their organisation was part of a network, whether it is one created by a sector support or membership organisations, specific to a locale / place or between networks of similar mission or focus. 

Networks between organisations of similar mission or focus are most used, with 88% of organisations said they were part of one and most of those using these networks both for information sharing and to work together. 

Nearly a quarter of respondents are using networks created by sector support or membership organisations for information sharing, while 60% are also using them to facilitate working together.  

There may be an opportunity to increase participation in place-based networks, with 22% of organisations saying they are not part of any networks specific to a locale / place. 

However, larger organisations (those with a turnover of more than £1mpa) are significantly more likely to be using networks, particularly to work together.  

Does your organisation take part in any networks?

Responses: 172

We aren’t part of theseUse for information sharing onlyUse for information sharing, and to work together
Networks created by sector support/membership organisations15%24%61%
Network specific to a locale/place22%17%61%
Networks between organisations of similar mission or focus12%19%70%

Graph showing participation in networks specific to a locale or place
Graph showing participation in networks between organisations of similar mission or focus
Graph showing participation in networks created by sector support or membership organisations

Only a quarter of respondents share staff or volunteers with other organisations

27% of respondents said that their organisation shares staff or volunteers with other organisations. The majority of these are through informal arrangements, with only 7% of respondents saying they had a formal arrangement in place for staff or volunteer sharing. Smaller organisations are slightly more likely to be sharing staff or volunteers. 

When asked which organisational areas they are sharing volunteers, the main areas respondents selected were Community engagement (56%), Education (26%), Project management (23%), non-IT technical support (23%), Fundraising (21%) and Archives and Libraries (21%).  

In which organisational functions do you share staff or volunteers? 

Responses under 20% have been excluded. 

Graph showing the organisational functions where organisations share staff or volunteers

For most respondents the perceived cost and administration of partnership arrangements for staff or volunteers outweigh the benefits  

Of those who are not currently sharing staff or volunteers, less than a third (32%) said they had previously considered it. When asked why they had not, respondents gave a range of answers, many of which related to capacity to manage these types of arrangements or losing capacity of volunteers: 

“We need our 100% of our staff and volunteer time to be able to deliver our current projects. Sharing would end up taking a lot of management time, more than the value we would be likely to gain.” 

“We are a small team so our capacity to do this is very limited. Volunteers help us with specific tasks and so we have always been hesitant about sharing with other organisations.” 

Some suggested that volunteers may not be interested in this way of working or that the organisations wanted to ensure their volunteers stayed loyal to them: 

“I don’t think our volunteers would be interested in this. Volunteers are very loyal to their places and seem to like the routine. I think we would struggle to find a similar local organisation to share volunteers with.” 

“Hadn’t crossed my mind – worried they might be poached!” 

For those who had shared staff or volunteers, or considered it, they could see the potential benefits, particularly for developing staff skills or knowledge, as well as cost savings:

“Being able to second people in different organisations would be a great way to help them develop their careers and skills.”  

“Potential cost and knowledge benefit being able to jointly afford a whole post by teaming up. Logistically and financially a bit challenging though.” 

Some respondents mentioned specific schemes or formal arrangements which had been helpful in facilitated the sharing of staff and volunteers:  

“We have worked on joint projects which shared staff between two organisations in the past. We have a co-option policy to allow staff to consider this should they wish.”  

“Helping tailor employment schemes – e.g. apprenticeships, kick start – for creative and cultural sector where employees are often on short term or freelance basis.”  

What advice do respondents have for developing successful partnerships? 

When asked to describe experiences of working in partnership and give advice to other organisations, respondents suggested a slow build up and the need for clarity on the purpose of the partnership: 

Need to develop relationship first with small steps to get to know each other/how we work.”

“Be clear on aims, objectives, roles, responsibilities, how success will be measured, evaluate the relationship, understand that relationships can end and have a plan for that, invest time in the relationship and not just the project you are delivering, share learning, celebrate good practice.” 

“Be crystal clear as to what the partnership is trying to achieve and roles and commitment of the partners to making that happen.” 

Others highlighted the investment of time and money required for successful partnership working: 

“It takes time, more than you think to build trust and rapport. It needs money and capacity too, for all partners to fully engage.” 

Finally, many talked about the positive impact of working in partnership: 

The partnerships we do have are a huge positive for all. We’ve established working and information sharing relationships which have assisted all. I would advise anyone considering it to have those conversations and ask how to make it happen. Sometimes it’s easier than you think!” 

“Genuine partnerships are more than the sum of the parts, and well worth the investment. They’re key to innovation, motivation, and obtaining external funding.” 

Case Study
For more inspiration about partnership working, read our latest case study: Brooklands Museum and Brooklands Innovation Academy

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