Using Partnerships to Support Education Programs

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson guides you in the basics of how to find appropriate partnerships to develop your school programs that help fulfill campus goals. Also, we explore the basic principles that guide a partnership with parents and/or organizations.

Why Pursue a Partnership?

Your school has innovative and exciting ideas about education programs that would have a positive social impact. Resources, however, are scarce and these education programs are a venture that is going to need support.

This summarizes some of the key reasons why your school may want to pursue a partnership. To put it in perspective, think about a class you teach. You have students with language limitations, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, etc. Your principal supports you through a specialized teacher who assists you with those students. The specialized teacher is your partner. He or she brings specialized knowledge to support your instruction, which make your teaching more enjoyable, overall. In the end, your partner and you accomplish the goal to support students.

Thus, a school partnership is the same: the educational program counts on gathering outside assistants, or support, in order to succeed. A school does not have to be limited to its own resources to accomplish its goals. Casting a wider net amongst parents, the community, and businesses can allow schools to build their innovative programs. Although this sounds really exciting and full of possibilities, you probably wonder where to begin. Let's see the steps.

Identify Your Needs

The educational program your school wants to implement requires resources. You might need money, professional expertise, volunteers, etc. This is the basis to begin the work to find potential partners.

You must ask yourself: what do I need from a partner? Once you know what type of help you want to receive from a partner, you can begin to research available resources. Potential partners can be within reach in a variety of forms, and it all depends on what you need.

For example, if the educational program in your school needs funding, you can begin with local nonprofits who have access to fundraising resources. You could also ask local private businesses, whose community reputation would benefit by supporting your program, for donations. Also, you could ask among school constituents, board of directors, parents, and other members of the community.

It is important to know your school does not need a specialized department to pursue donations or collaboration. The very same school members you see every day are a great resource to help identify potential partners. This includes students (they could take a letter to their parents) and school staff (they could ask around their neighborhoods, families, friends, etc.). The question is, 'Do you know someone who has...'

In regards to organizations, a partnership is more likely to be successful with those that have the same goals or values as your educational program. The organization's mission statement provides you with this pertinent information.

Make a Map and Act Immediately

Once you know what resources are available, you can draw up a map of potential partners and get in touch with them as soon as possible. Make appointments and directly ask for what you need to develop your educational program. The key is to ask very specifically, in a clear and concise manner, for what you need. Also, make sure to mention to potential partners how they would benefit from the partnership. As a key consideration, you might want to appeal to a sense of community and the common goals you share.

Most potential partners may need to consult with their own stakeholders before they give you a concrete response. Your work is to follow-up with them after an appropriate period of time.

Crystallize Agreements

Once you receive positive answers, it is important to draw up a formal agreement with your partners. Too often, one hears things like, 'They said they were going to help, but then we never heard from them again.' Remember, you are the one who pursues the partnership. This work often requires a draft that you present for their consideration. If all terms are acceptable, your new partner may sign the agreement straightaway.

The key is never to underestimate the power of a written agreement. For example, if your educational program needs parents in the community to help students with homework, the parents who agree to volunteer will feel more of a commitment if they sign an agreement to volunteer. Partnerships with organizations in the community usually crystallize through an agreement that becomes the legal basis for the partnership.

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