Stakeholder & Community Relations–Say it digitally: Use your web to honor and support your business partners

As you’ve read elsewhere in this issue, powerful partnerships are the key to building strong technology programs that bridge your schools with the larger community. As concern over equity grows, school, business, and community leaders are joining together to make sure that all students have access to the information highway and today’s high-tech learning tools.

But building–and maintaining–those partnerships with area businesses and funders can prove challenging. You can use the internet to help you find likely collaborators and then to facilitate planning and managing your partnership.

Building alliances

If you haven’t yet jumped on the collaboration bandwagon or would like to get more power out of your partnerships, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. A snappy school web site can help showcase the good work you–and your business and community partners–are doing already, as well as your vision for the future and current “wish list” for support. A strategically-designed web site can also show that you take the partnership business seriously. Check out the Austin Independent School District site.

  2. Assume the role of a detective and use the web to identify those companies and community groups who care about, or share, your mission. Research potential partners by reviewing their web sites, on-line annual reports, new business ventures, philanthropic contributions and funding guidelines. Make sure you understand the business your potential partners are in, who their customers are, what their corporate values are and where their employees work and live.

    The age of “checkbook” philanthropy is over. Partnerships today have to be strategic and “win-win” for all involved, even if the benefits are long-term in nature.

    Most companies favor programs that are championed by their employees, provide meaningful volunteer experiences, tie in with corporate goals, and offer vibrant public relations opportunities.

  3. Develop a partnership plan. Use your web research to identify areas of mutual interest and concern, and then develop a plan for addressing the problem.

    Include measurable goals and objectives, timelines, and a well-thought-out budget. Consider staffing issues and provide specific job descriptions and goals for all community volunteers.

  4. Stay in touch and say “thank you” often. Relationships wither without frequent communication and healthy doses of appreciation.

    Invite your partners to special events at your school such as plays, open houses, and partner-sponsored activities.

    Don’t forget to share your good news on the web, in press releases, school bulletins, and newsletters and drop a line to your partners via eMail. Better yet, have students create a partnership web page that showcases their accomplishments or eMail partners a quick thank you note.

    The goal is to make six to 12 personal contacts with your partners each year. There’s no such thing as giving too much recognition, as long as it’s heart-felt and meaningful.

  5. Don’t be afraid to start small. My first foray into school-business partnerships involved begging free doughnuts from a neighborhood bakery for a staff meeting.

Austin Independent School District

Some model partnership sites:

Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

IBM’s Reinventing Education

Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

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