A Win-Win Initiative

In many parts of the world, getting money to build and sustain programs is challenging whether it be from governments, donors, corporations or grants.  This forces us all to plan and spend carefully as well as avoid duplication.  The Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) established information and support programs have 20 years of investment and experience that can help other organizations meet their mission goals.

In the past two years, CCS has partnered with two cancer specific charities to provide phone and email support to their clients.  They set up their own toll-free numbers and support email addresses which are both directed to the CCS for service.

The Society felt there was capacity to increase our reach while offsetting our expenses by charging the partner a fee for the service we provide on their behalf. So far, all parties find this a successful model.  The partners have increased their service offerings to their constituents and CCS gains revenue to support the operations of our programs as well as reach more cancer patients and families.

If you have an opportunity to partner with another organization – either to provide service or receive service – we’ve included a checklist of things to consider when developing an agreement.  All agreements should be reviewed by legal representatives of both organizations before any implementation.

Our experience has highlighted two tips that increase the chance of success:

  1. Take it out of the board room.
    Organizational leaders need to make the final decisions about any agreements, however, visiting the contact centre, meeting the staff from both organizations, seeing the operation in action is worth the time and effort.
  2. Work on the relationship, not just the partnership agreement.
    Once the agreement has been written, vetted and signed, don’t forget to stay in touch. Identify people close to the service who can meet on a regular basis, debrief, identify issues, find solutions and manage expectations on both sides of the agreement.


Partnership Agreement Checklist

Providing Service Receiving Service
Does the service you provide align with the partner’s goals and positions or messaging?
– How much can you modify without shifting from your own goals?
Will your goals be met by the service delivered by the partner?Are their positions and messaging consistent with your organization?
– Can specific changes be accommodated?
What aspects of your service and programs can you extend to partners?  Eg.  Cancer Information Service calls and emails, online community moderation, volunteer support, content development or access to your print and web content. What types of services do you want to offer to your constituents?  Phone and email service, online chat, peer support groups or one-in-one support, content?
Considering approximate volume and nature of contacts, do you have capacity to extend service to the partner?
– If not, what more is needed?
Considering current service levels (turnaround time, volumes etc.), could the partner service your constituents with their existing infrastructure? Are their service levels (e.g., turnaround time) consistent with what you want provided to your clients
– If not, what more is required?
Will you be remunerated and how and frequency?
– flat fee, cost per inquiry, real costs of phone, postage, etc.
Considering the costs to set up your own service, is the partner providing good value for the cost and are there savings?
Can you negotiate and come to agreement on the following requirements:
– set up procedures
– timelines, costs
– training
– technical support
– communication, reporting
– promotion and branding (including how the phone is answered)
– evaluation
– dispute resolution

-restrictions on use of client data


Who leads the relationship on behalf of your organization?

Is that person/department clear about all activities and timelines required?


Submitted by:

Jan MacVinnie, Manager Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Information Service
Heather Sinardo, Senior Manager, Canadian Cancer Society, CancerConnection Peer Support Services