Forming effective partnerships is important for new fatherhood programs and requires planning. After identifying potential partners and key points of contact, reach out and explore whether a partnership could be mutually beneficial. A formal first step might be to get in touch by email, letter, or phone. Less formal contact might be made when attending community events or serving on multi-agency committees. Board members and others may be able to help by providing introductions.
Before approaching potential partners, you need to be clear about what you are asking for and be able to clearly articulate your program’s goals and strategies.
After an organization or agency agrees to partner with your fatherhood program, experienced practitioners recommend developing a clear, written agreement between the two programs. An agreement reduces misunderstanding and helps provide continuity during staff changes. Some practitioners recommend setting initial terms that are easily agreeable and not too demanding for either partner.
All relevant staff at both organizations should be briefed about the terms of the partnership and the role of each organization.
Tips & Best Practices
- Consider strategies on how to identify potential partners, communicate expectations, collaborate on shared topics of interests, and build effective partnerships. The strategies provided in this tip card can help create stronger agencies that can enhance funding applications and increase outcomes for the community.
- When forming partnerships, clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each partner, ensure buy-in of staff members, designate a lead agency, and plan for supports to maintain high participation rates. This brief details promising practices that programs can take when forming and maintaining partnerships.
- Experienced practitioners recommend having an effective elevator speech. One approach is to develop an “elevator speech,” a brief but compelling overview of your fatherhood program that can be adjusted according to a potential partner’s focus. This can be an effective springboard to outlining the ways a prospective partner can benefit from an alliance with your fatherhood program.
- Always engage all staff and board members in carrying your program’s brochures or other materials with them so they always have information ready to show a potential partner who might help with recruitment, services, or funding. Additionally, share concrete success stories and encourage potential partners to visit your fatherhood program to see it in action.
Marvin Charles and his wife, Jeanett, founded Divine Alternatives for Dads (DADS) in their Seattle, WA, living room in 1998. They had been homeless, unemployed addicts and had lost several of their children to the foster care system before taking steps to become sober, find housing, and obtain steady employment. Since that time, they have successfully applied lessons learned during their own recovery to help others “put their families back together.” Their program focuses on helping fathers recover from addiction, return from prison, and deal with general difficulties of life. Key to their success has been effective partnerships with various community organizations and state agencies, including the state departments of Corrections, Social and Health Services, and Child Support; local employment agencies and public and private employers; King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and local courts; Atlantic Street Center, a community-based organization providing court-approved parenting classes; and Union Gospel Mission, which provides services for homeless individuals and families.
Who are some potential partners my program should consider?
Some partners may include:
- State or local government agencies (child support enforcement, child welfare, employment, education)
- Schools/Head Start/other preschool or early childhood programs
- Substance abuse programs
- Domestic violence programs
- Faith-based organizations
- Nonprofit, community-based organizations
- Hospital maternity departments
- Judges and mediators
What are other ways to building effective partnerships aside from an effective elevator speech?
- When speaking with individuals or organizations that may be potential partners for program referrals, explain what the fatherhood program does, why someone might participate, and how a partnership would benefit both organizations.
- When speaking with someone who could potentially provide a specific service (e.g., skills training, GED classes, legal assistance for navigating child support or custody systems, transportation, substance abuse counseling, anger management), understand what they offer and get feedback from community members and former participants on the quality of services.
- Host a forum or community events to showcase the program, its goals, and successes. Feature stories from fathers who have been directly affected by the program.
How would an organization go about formalizing a partnership?
- Many fatherhood programs use one or more types of agreement including:
- Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) ‒ outlines the actions expected of all parties with a statement of purpose and clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.
- Contract ‒ specifies terms of the partnership in a more formal agreement (strongly recommended when deliverables are required from one partner in exchange for a fee).
- Performance-based contract ‒ clarifies the level of outcomes required to receive payment and specifies what will happen if the expectations are not met.