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June 14, 2022

Two men shaking hands at a Farmer's MarketMost U.S. cities and towns are alive with activity in the summer, and potential partners will be making the most of it! Street festivals, community events, and outdoor movies and concerts abound. Put on your networking hat while having fun in your leisure time, and think about how each new encounter is a partnership opportunity. With Y4Y tools at your fingertips, new partners will come as easily as a summer breeze.

Think Network
Most 21st CCLC program directors and site coordinators have experience in seeking program partners to meet a specific need. A perfect example is an ambitious STEAM project that will go much more smoothly if you can convince the local hobby shop to donate a few robotics kits. While this is an important practice to keep in place, just remember that there’s no partnership quota! Your program can and should develop community relationships that might have nothing to do with an immediate need. Those relationships stand to be even stronger, in fact, if you don’t have your hat in hand the moment you make a new acquaintance. Instead, you’re building a network — learning as much about your community members as you can, sharing as much about your program as they’ll let you, and noticing any shared goals. 

Broaden Those Horizons
If you’re blanking out on how the summer’s leisure activities could put you in the path of potential program partners, brush up on the basics of seeking out partners with Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course and related tools. Pull up the Identifying Partners tool and brainstorm with colleagues about how you could add even more ideas to the list of businesses, artisans, organizations, and leaders that you might encounter. If immediate program needs come to mind, great! If not, tuck those new network friends into a mental file and a physical one for revisiting once the new program year begins. The Mapping Needs to Partners tool will help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Art fair vendor: possible art activity leader
  • Political candidate: possible guest speaker on government
  • In-home water delivery rep: possible donor of water bottles
  • Face painter: possible culminating event special guest
  • Livestock winner: possible field trip host

What’s Stopping You?
Chances are, one of three things gives you the greatest pause in reaching out to new partners.

  1. I just know they’ll say no. Why bother?
  2. Call it Mom’s lessons: I’m uncomfortable talking to strangers.
  3. If I were any good at selling, I’d be rolling in my Lamborghini commissions.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Maybe they will say no. Or get that cringy face that tells you they want you to walk away. Here’s the good news: It costs you zero dollars to ask, and Y4Y can boost your confidence when you realize that all you’re really doing is planning for developing program champions! YOU are the first champion of your program and advocate for your students, and you simply want to recruit more members of that cheering squad!
  2. Mom wasn’t wrong: You should be leery of strangers. Bring a friend and never share personal information when meeting new potential partners in nonacademic environments. Tip: Ask questions that might lead you to find acquaintances in common. They might be able to tell you more about your new program friend.
  3. Fair point on the Lamborghini commissions. Except there are sales jobs that fill much more than your bank account. Your 21st CCLC work fills your soul. Use all the tools you can, like the Y4Y Creating a Program Elevator Speech tool to make finding new partners just one more task that you can develop strategies for. Remember to be brief, informative, positive, and results-oriented. 

Y4Y hears it often: Even seasoned program leaders may drag their feet when it comes to forming new partnerships. Try carrying this quote from Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream with you to your summer leisure activities:

“She had felt straight away that she wasn’t meeting a new friend, but recognizing an old one.”

If you stay alert for shared goals, interests, and connections, finding new friends for your program will be easy as a summer breeze.