As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a community to build a school or an afterschool program. Building a network of supportive partners can be a complex and challenging task for afterschool providers.

Fortunately, resources and expert advice are available. Conduct a community-asset assessment to generate a list of potential supporters. Explore your community, research online, ask program participants to recommend organizations that target specific needs and consider how to strengthen and extend existing partnerships.

After identifying potential partners, develop a plan for engaging the most qualified businesses or organizations. Asking the following questions is a smart place to start:

  • Are the mission and overall vision of this organization aligned with our program’s mission and vision?
  • What are our expectations for a relationship with this partner?
  • What resources can this partner bring to our program? financial support? mentors? learning opportunities for students? internships?
  • What will our program bring to the relationship so that it’s mutually beneficial?

Below are proven effective strategies for building successful community partnerships.

  • Reach out to businesses: Ask for monetary donations; gifts of supplies; use of rent-free space; and volunteer, mentor or intern possibilities.
  • Utilize colleges: Contact the civic-engagement or public-service offices, and request to have your program listed as a public-service opportunity.
  • Network with other youth-service providers: Provide information about your program to other youth-service providers and learn about their programs. Share resources when possible.
  • Connect with parents and other adults: Communicate frequently with adults in your community, both formally and informally. Encourage their participation through incentives such as shared meals, transportation and opportunities for leadership. Offer a wide variety of ways for adults in your community to share their skills and talents.

By sharing their dreams of enhanced community partnerships, asking community members what matters most to them and displaying a passion for education, afterschool providers can build long-term relationships that will benefit both the students they serve and the organizations who desire to help them.