A partnership is a voluntary collaboration of two or more organizations to achieve clearly identified goals. Partnerships between public and private organizations help build strong communities. Not only do they help leverage and maximize limited dollars and resources, partnerships also build a power base from which to influence positive community change. Community partnerships bolster the reach and effectiveness of local private and public organizations, and the impact of programs such as the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).
Your potential partners should reflect the focus and purpose of your partnership. They may include local government, large and small businesses, community and civic organizations, faith-based organizations, schools, Tribal colleges and universities, State and regional government organizations, and national companies and organizations.
Find out about an organization’s readiness to partner by talking with the executive director, board members, or program administrator. Start with people or organizations with whom you may have already worked. You can select the most promising partners by evaluating their mission, reputation, level of effort and success in the community, the capacity to contribute to a partnership, and proximity to other partners. Then start reaching out to like-minded individuals and groups to promote the partnership.
Successful partnerships are based on trust, mutual respect, solidarity, and accountability. As your partnership takes shape, you want to be sure you are attracting participants to the partnering table who share these principles — and that they are effective once they get there.
Experienced partnerships are broad-based and represent a cross-section of the community; expand gradually over time; and formalize relationships and responsibilities in writing, such as through a Memorandum of Understanding. Clear guidelines and procedures can help ensure effective communication, minimize misunderstanding, and enhance collaboration among partners and agencies. Guidelines are an important part of team building and working together. Your partnership’s guidelines should reflect your community’s uniqueness. To help partnerships work effectively together, remember to seek input and recognize contributions from all partners and include community members in decision making.