There’s the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For schools seeking to form a partnership with a community-based organization, a positive first impression might mean demonstrating that you will be a trustworthy and responsible recipient for their funding, time, and resources. You wear many hats as an administrator, and this is your opportunity to think like a marketer as you highlight what your school brings to a partnership.
Here are some ways to make sure your school puts its best foot forward when approaching a prospective partner.
RESEARCH THE ORGANIZATION
You may have done some research when you looked at mission statements to find a match with your school’s desired outcomes, but now your goal is to learn as much as you can about the organization so you can craft your appeal to their priorities and interests. Review your target organization’s website and search for news about it to find out what types of programs they offer.
CALL ON YOUR NETWORK
Consider your existing network. Do you know someone who may have an existing connection to the community organization? Reach out to that person to obtain insights about the potential partnership opportunity. Ask the person to provide an introduction to leadership, staff, or another influencer of the organization.
TELL YOUR SCHOOL’S STORY
You can talk about the demographics of your school, such as the student population size and the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, but also be prepared to share compelling stories of how a partnership will benefit your students. If you plan to implement the FAST® Program, describe the specific types of positive outcomes you expect to achieve.
MAKE THE CASE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
Compelling stories may tug a community partner’s heartstrings, but to appeal to their head as well as their heart, demonstrate that you would be a responsible partner. Has your school implemented any other programs? Discuss your history of success and the strengths of your teaching team. Do you know which staff members might be involved in the implementation? Share their credentials as well as their commitment to your school. Also, be sure to mention if there has been any preliminary interest in FAST from families.
CONSIDER THE VALUE ADDED ANGLE
Think about the advantages a partnership will provide for the community organization to illustrate how working together will be mutually beneficial. Those advantages include advancing the organization’s mission, gaining access to families they otherwise may not reach, creating visibility within the community, and if other local businesses, organizations or service providers are involved in the implementation, building networks and collaborations on a larger scale.
Once you’ve thought about these areas, you’re ready to make your case clearly and concisely. Write a brief, one-page proposal of what you hope to achieve with a partnership. Then, check the organization’s website to see if they state how they wish to be contacted. If they don’t state a preference, reach out to them, and use your research to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.
For readers who are already working with a community partner, what steps and strategies did you use to build a relationship with the organization? We would love to hear about your success! Please visit our website at familiesandschools.org or contact us at 888.629.2481.