Community Partnerships: Considerations Before Commitment
By Vanessa Spero, Florida 4-H
Have you ever been approached by an organization in your community looking to partner with your school or district?
Perhaps the organization is looking to match students with mentors. Maybe it has an afterschool program for students of working parents. Partnering with your site would allow this organization to reach your school or districts’ students, teachers and parents, thereby providing them with a benefit.
Were you excited about this opportunity? Wary of the commitment? Nervous that it wouldn’t bode well?
When they work well, partnerships with community organizations enrich the school environment and student outcomes. When they don’t, they can be a drain on resources and fall short of each parties’ expectations. Partnerships when successful, benefit all the parties involved.
The next time you’re met with a partnership opportunity, consider these tips for establishing and fostering a productive relationship.
- Do your missions and visions match?
Does the mission of your prospective partner match your values and goals? Partnerships are a great way to provide opportunities to students, teachers and families you wouldn’t otherwise have the capacity to offer. However, you need to make sure new offerings will benefit these groups and the expectations are clear up front. Can your prospective partner meet these needs?
- How much time is involved?
Is your prospective partner looking for a short or long-term arrangement? How much can you realistically invest in time and resources to this partnership?
- Who’s at the table?
Will this partnership primarily serve students, teachers, families? Have you involved everyone in your school or district who needs to be a part of this partnership decision?
- Will they meet the requirements?
Will your partner be able to meet the requirements for working with your school or district (such as volunteer screening and facility use and vice versa?
- Who else do they partner with?
Does your prospective partner currently partner with other organizations, schools or districts? What’s the nature of that partnership?
- What’s the impact?
How will your potential partner evaluate and report the impact of their program? How do they pay for materials and staff? Are they on a grant cycle?
- What are the expectations?
Will you be able to communicate what you can offer in advance? Who is committing to what? Some organizations may want or need to set up a Memorandum of Understanding /Agreement (MOU/MOA) to clarify expectations ahead of time. Partnerships can take time to crystalize, so be prepared to spend time following protocols and resolving unforeseen roadblocks.
- Will you share credit?
Will both partners be acknowledged in communications and branding? Community organizations rely on being recognized for their positive impacts. Be ready to evaluate your partnership on a regular basis to discuss what’s working and what needs adjustment.
Information adapted from “Working with Partners Effectively,” written by Vanessa Spero, Florida 4-H, and Elizabeth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County, Family and Consumer Sciences. Florida 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. With a focus on leadership, community service, STEM and healthy living, 4-H uses a learn-by-doing approach to help nearly 200,000 Florida youth ages 5-18 gain the knowledge and skills they need to be responsible, productive citizens. To learn more, visit florida4h.org.