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.
- A more connected approach can increase participation by using the knowledge, networks, or resources of a partner to engage more people with your offer in ways that suit them.
- This helps ensure your participants reflect your local community, making your organisation feel welcoming and accessible for everyone. Watch our video exploring the relationship between Belong Nottingham and Beeston Hockey Club for a real-life example.
- Create a wider, more diverse pool of volunteers.
- Partnerships can help you increase volunteer numbers through access to a wider pool of people from different backgrounds who might want to get involved.
- This creates greater diversity of thought, brings in different skills and lived experiences and ensures your volunteer workforce, like your participants, reflects your community and its needs.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.