Partnerships are an excellent way to enhance programming. Decreased funding and staff hours, and increased learning objective demands can make it hard for one organization to do it all. Partnerships provide an opportunity for multiple organizations to address community challenges while also benefiting from shared resources, funding, personnel, and expertise. Partnerships open a world of possibilities.
Desiring to partner with another organization is simple, but it’s not always easy to implement. Below are some suggestions for successful partnerships.
Finding the Right Partner:
- Discover new ways to partner: is there a non-profit, governmental entity, or for-profit business that has the same or similar goals you can work with? Having matching missions and vision enhance a strong partnership.
- Keep asking within the community, joining committees, and working with different audiences. This provides opportunities to be noticed or to find someone who may be the “spark” and shares similar ideas.
- Identify your organization’s strength. Know what your organization can actually bring to the partnership. What can you and your organization offer in terms of time commitment, resources, etc.? Be realistic, honest, and open about what you can offer.
- Identify the missing skills or resources that your organization may be lacking. These are items you can target from another organization.
Building the Right Foundation:
- Be patient. Sometimes an organization is eager to work with you but there may be unforeseen circumstances that delay the start of a program or they may have protocol you don’t know about that must be followed.
- Share the credit. Organizations that work together need to share in the successes otherwise it won’t be a mutually beneficial partnership.
- Determine if a Memoranda of Understanding/Agreement (MOU/MOA) is necessary for the partnership. Organizations differ in their requirements. Check who in your organization can approve an MOU/MOA, typically a dean, director, etc.
- If you are planning to apply for a grant through this partnership, make sure the expectations are clear. Have expectations and agreements in writing to decrease disappointments and increase the probability the partnership will remain intact.
A Sample Success:
The University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, (UF/IFAS) Extension Office in Brevard County works with youth through multiple avenues. 4-H traditionally reaches youth through community clubs, afterschool clubs, seminars, and school enrichment. The Family Nutrition Program (FNP) reaches youth through school programs, community center programs, and summer programs. Both entities target low income youth through hand-on learning programs. While 4-H focuses on gardening, FNP focuses on food and nutrition. Traditional programs for both 4-H and FNP had targeted youth during school hours and had yet to work effectively with afterschool programs. UF/IFAS Extension was approached by Brevard County Public Schools Afterschool program, specifically the 21st Century Grants Sites, to partner and provide afterschool programming to youth in the county. Extension was able to expand their programming and reach diverse, untapped audiences by partnering. Each 21st Century Grant site had afterschool staff and personnel available to assist with classroom management, provide a space to teach, and provide an audience. This allowed UF/IFAS Extension to do what it does best: bring in the expertise and teach. 4-H was also able to receive funding for their gardening programs through this partnership (FNP already had funding available). UF/IFAS Extension benefitted through resources and the ability to reach their target population while Brevard County Public Schools Afterschool Program benefitted with sustainable educational programs for their youth, which is part of their grant requirement. This partnership also allowed 4-H and FNP to teach at school sites that had previously not been as cooperative to allow programming at their sites. The partnership has allowed for expansion of quality programming, as well as built a strong partnership between two local organizations. To learn more about this partnership, watch this recorded webinar: Right Partner, Right Place, Right Time: Exploring New Avenues to Create Partnerships
Vanessa Spero-Swingle, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Elizabeth Shephard, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Mitrofanova, Yelena. Building community-schools relationships (community schools). University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County. Sept. 2004.
Pritchett, James, Joan Fulton, and Susan Hine. Keys to successful programming: Incentives in multi-institutional partnerships. The Journal of Extension, Feb. 2012.