Magazine article Parks & Recreation

HowTo Form Successful Program Partnerships

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

HowTo Form Successful Program Partnerships

Article excerpt

Good collaboration with helpful partners can make or break your recreation program

We have all reached that point where there is simply no money to run the kind of program we imagined. Fear not, young professionals, for we are resourceful and always find a way to manage. While user fees could increase or the quality of the program could dwindle, as professionals we can always find another organization to work with. I speak of partnerships, and they can work miracles, but first, there are a few things you should consider.

What to Merge?

Forming partnerships means you can potentially merge budgets, supplies, equipment, facility space, staff, volunteers, programming ideas, participant databases, marketing and promotions, as well as liability and risk management.

Formal vs. Informal

Prior to implementing any partnership, you need to determine if a simple handshake sets the terms or if a couple of John Hancocks are required. In some instances, a formal agreement will require that some type of legal counsel drafts and reviews a memorandum of understanding. This process can take quite some time, so I recommend considering your partnerships and any documentation well in advance of any programming deadlines. Despite the paperwork hurdles you may have to jump over, formal documentation is typically a good thing as it serves as a form of communication clearly stating who is responsible for what.

Public vs. Private

Partnering with public and nonprofit organizations tends to eliminate program overlap while allowing you to share supplies and staffing resources. However, private organizations can usually provide larger financial support. Remember, though, private organizations are typically in business to see some sort of return on investment. Public and nonprofit organizations should be supportive with staff who can witness the partnership benefits; however, private organizations can benefit from supporting documentation showing that the partnership was worthwhile. Similar to fulfilling a grant, it never hurts to let your partners know how helpful their partnership was. Doing so can also result in future partnerships.

Sharing Staff

Sharing staff and volunteers can be very beneficial when your manpower is limited. However, your partners' staff and volunteers were not trained by your organization and may do things differently than you would like. If it becomes an issue, you may need to include your preferred methods in written documentation or speak to your partner about them directly. On the bright side, having outside staff and volunteers work with your department may instill a passion for parks and recreation in them, allowing you to gain new volunteers, donors or even staff members.

Potential Partners

Potential partners are everywhere! As resourceful park and recreation professionals, we should maximize these opportunities to reduce the pressure put on our organizations.

Emergency Personnel: Emergency personnel are typically a staple at community special events and may crunch your budget a bit. Sometimes a volunteer can be bought with a free meal, but if that doesn't work, consider a partnership. For example, many fire departments host pancake breakfasts to raise funds. Swapping staff for these events can lower the cost of keeping your community safe, and you might get free pancakes out of the deal.

Public Entities: Your state's department of natural resources staff love to teach others about the outdoors, so a partnership could include volunteer naturalists leading a summer day-camp program. …

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