Creating community partnerships

Organisations delivering sport and physical activity are often ideally placed to help address issues and challenges faced by their local community. However, they often lack the resources, expertise, or access to do this.

Developing partnerships with relevant local organisations can better position community sport organisations to reach those most in need, offer them the health and wider social benefits of being active, and support their own sustainability. Ultimately, these local connections help address inequalities and enable organisations and their communities to thrive.

Being active, especially within a club or group setting, can have lots of benefits for individuals and their communities, including:

  • Put your organisation at the heart of your community.
    • Partnerships, and what can be achieved through them, can raise your organisation’s profile locally, develop your reputation, and create new opportunities like community referrals.
  • Increase participation and opportunities to be active.
  • Create a wider, more diverse pool of volunteers.
  • Support financial sustainability.
    • Community partnerships can aid income generation through increased sponsorship opportunities or revenue from new participants – however, affordability for the people you’re working with should be considered.
  • Make the most of local places and spaces.
    • Partners might offer access to different venues or have insight about the spaces where different groups of people spend time, helping you take your offer to them.

Steps to developing community partnerships

Organisations can consider the below steps when developing community partnerships, to help ensure their success.

Before reaching out, agree internally why you want to create a community partnership and the collective outcomes you’re looking for as an organisation, and for the community you are working with. All key people from your organisation (e.g. all committee members) should be involved in this. Try to engage with as many different people as possible and not just those who are involved in the decision-making processes within your organisation. This will aid communication of intentions, encourage commitment across your organisation and from your partner/s once in place, and support planning and goal setting.

At this point, also consider whether your culture and values align with your desired partnership outcomes. For example, if you want to attract new people, you will need to ensure your organisation is welcoming and friendly. Also consider what you’re looking for in a partner, such as their culture, values, practices and purpose, and the kind of working relationship you want to develop. Overall, this isn’t about being the best or most competitive – it’s about doing good for your shared community.

Think about any existing partnerships you have, who these are with and the nature of these:

  • What your partner/s get from working with you?
  • What you get from working with your partner/s?
  • Is there anything different you want to explore with existing partners?
  • Do your partners’ values align with your organisation’s? Is there anything you are committed to internally, which your partners are not?

Defining these things for any existing partnerships will help you review existing relationships but also determine what you are looking for in new partners. If you don’t have partners already, you can consider the above in relation to potential partners as you research them.

Once you have determined what you want to achieve and what you’re looking for, think about local organisations that best align with this, including their services and networks. Potential partners may include, but are not limited to:

  • Charities.
  • Organisations working with specific audiences (e.g. older people, women and girls etc).
  • Schools and other educational establishments.
  • Community groups or voluntary sector organisations.
  • Other clubs (including professional) or activity providers.
  • Facility providers.
  • Local authorities.

The initial contact with a chosen organisation plays a big part in securing them as a partner. To help, consider the below actions:

  • Select someone with enough time at your organisation to be the main point of contact for a new partner, to help build consistency and trust.
  • Take time to do research. Get to know more about their organisation, what they do, what they stand for, and if they already support any community causes. Also try to identify the right person to speak to and make direct contact with them if possible.
  • Think back to step 2 of the process and make sure you can clearly state what you’re looking for from the organisation and why, but also what you can offer in return.
  • Try to ensure they recognise the important role that sport and physical activity can play. If relevant, highlight the ways that this can support their organisation’s own priorities.
  • Be open and willing to answer questions about your organisation. Potential partners may know very little about your offer and operations, so make sure anyone involved in discussions from your organisation is ready to answer any questions.

Different partnerships will work in different ways. Some may be formal arrangements whilst others will have a much more informal nature about them. It is important to agree on the approach you take both as an organisation and with any partners you are looking to work with.

After your initial contact, potential partners might need time to consider your proposal. If the outcome is positive, regardless of the nature of the partnership, it’s important that the next step is to work together to plan the partnership’s development, including:

  • Defining a mutually beneficial purpose and goals, and agreeing on core values and priorities.
  • Co-designing the partnership approach and ensuring this is not one-way or transactional.
  • Defining ways of working that are flexible and can evolve and develop over time, to ensure the needs of both organisations are met.
  • Defining how you will determine if your partnership has been successful for both organisations, including timelines for tracking progress.

Throughout your partnership, it is important to celebrate and promote it. Both organisations should promote information about the new partnership and any new offer through all communication channels initially, then try to share regular updates with its networks, celebrate successes and demonstrate the partnership’s impact. Creating a shared communications plan can help support effective promotion.

Regular communication with partners is key to managing the relationship effectively. Encouraging positive and constructive dialogue will enable you to adapt and strengthen shared ways of working, resolve issues quickly and support planning for the partnership’s future. If your partner has localised or specific insight, regular information sharing will also help you ensure you are continually meeting people’s needs.
Last modified: Monday, 26 September 2022, 5:18 PM