Establishing Strategic Partnerships for Communities Talk Activities
A key message for Communities Talk to Prevent Underage Drinking is that substance use affects all aspects of the community. As such, reaching out to local partners and sponsors who also have a stake in community well-being can expand the resources and reach of your Communities Talk activity.
Involving partners with varied missions in your Communities Talk activity can also help you highlight the many ways that underage drinking affects your town, its health, and its future.
Start by considering the businesses, local organizations, and chapters of national organizations-like the PTA or Boys & Girls Clubs of America-in your area whose missions intersect with underage drinking or other substance use prevention, health, and more. This makes your ask easier because you have already identified why a partnership makes sense. Then, look at what promotional opportunities these organizations or groups might be able to offer. Do they have a newsletter, listserv, or blog they can use to spread the word about your Communities Talk activity to their constituents? How about a strong social media presence? Do they have resources such as youth volunteers, public venues, broadcast technology, or potential funding that they could bring to the table? Use this information to develop a partnership plan that includes not only your ask of potential partners but also what your organization can share in return.
Groups to consider include:
Businesses—Local businesses, such as car dealerships, corporations, banks, and hotels; retail and entertainment establishments, such as bowling alleys and movie theaters; and local restaurants can be good sources for door prizes and giveaways as well as outlets for promotional materials. Local outlets for large chain stores, such as Target and Walmart/Sam's Club, offer small grants to nonprofit organizations in their communities.
Colleges—Colleges can help provide volunteers, peer-to-peer education, interactive activities, media coverage, and motivation for your activity. Additionally, you can go to the marketing or public relations program within your local college for help with outreach strategy. The Public Relations Society of America has a student society, and local chapters frequently look for off-campus projects to use as learning experiences.
Faith-based Organizations—Faith-based groups in your community may yield a number of other partners with a tradition of community service and a strong volunteer base. In fact, many faith-based organizations have health and wellness programs.
Health Care Providers—Health care providers, such as pediatricians, nurse practitioners, counselors, health maintenance organizations, and community hospitals, may be able to publicize the activity on their marketing platforms (i.e., newsletters, websites, and social media) or distribute materials in their offices. They also might have brochures related to substance abuse that could be distributed at your activity.
Government Offices—Libraries, public housing authorities, and your state and local Department of Family and Child Services and Department of Health and Human Services, among others, can be approached to help with your activity.
Parent Groups—Community parent groups, the PTA, foster parent associations, athletic organizations, and music and arts programs can be useful for reaching parents and caregivers.
Youth Service Organizations—Local chapters of youth service organizations and groups, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, YWCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America, and Students Against Destructive Decisions, can help you reach and educate youth and young adults about underage drinking prevention.
Community Service Organizations—The local Elks, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, graduate chapters of fraternities and sororities, Urban League affiliates, and other community service organizations may have the well-being of youth or substance abuse prevention as a priority objective within their mission.
What Partners Can Provide
Partnering organizations can provide a wealth of support for your Communities Talk activities. Your request might be for an organization to:
- Provide a speaker or ask one of its members to give expert advice;
- Set up a platform on the web to stream the activity online;
- Connect with key community stakeholders, including business leaders, local politicians, or community leaders;
- Offer a venue for the activity;
- Promote activities through social media, advertising, and local media outlets;
- Donate door prizes;
- Provide refreshments;
- Provide transportation for participants; and
- Lend computers, chairs, electrical equipment, or furniture.
The Partnership Invitation
Extend an invitation to be a Communities Talk activity partner by email or a phone call. An initial email followed up by a phone call can elicit the most success. In your invitation:
- Introduce yourself and mention the person who suggested that you make contact, if applicable.
- Briefly mention why underage drinking prevention and Communities Talk is so important to your community.
- Summarize why prevention is important for their organization as well.
- Describe specifically how you are asking the organization to engage with your Communities Talk activity.
- Include your contact information, but let the organization know (if this is an email) that you will follow up by phone.
- Thank the organization publicly and through a letter from the leadership of your organization.
Wait a few days before following up with your list of contacts. If they're reluctant to get involved because they feel that they have insufficient resources, make sure you have a few low-cost alternative activities with which they can help. For example, your contacts could post a prewritten announcement or flyer for your activity.
Rewarding and Sustaining a Partnership
It is important to ensure the relationship is helpful to both you and the partner. Partnerships imply a mutually beneficial arrangement, so do not forget to offer the partner something in exchange. Keep the lines of communication open, follow through on any services or resources you said you would provide, and express gratitude to the partner by sending thank you notes and recognizing your partners in your promotional materials and as part of your activity. Forming partnerships with a variety of different organizations can increase the sustainability of your programs and initiatives, maximize your resources, and broaden your impact.