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10 tips for starting your own school-business partnership

Tips include picking an area of need and identifying the appropriate partner
PreK students in Detroit Public Schools perform at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix through the PNC Bank ‘Grow Up Great’ Program.
PreK students in Detroit Public Schools perform at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix through the PNC Bank ‘Grow Up Great’ Program.

The Council for Corporate & Schools Partnerships offers districts a how-to guide on forming alliances with business. Here are highlights from its step-by-step list:

  1. Pick an area of need, and, keeping the school’s core values in mind, consider how a partnership with business will help students. Business leaders might provide funding, professional development, extra manpower, mentoring, supplies, or other services.
  2. In researching potential partners, try to identify businesses most likely to fill unmet needs. For example, school leaders looking for a specific service should reach out to a business that has expertise in that area and also should ask parents and faculty to suggest potential partners.
  3. Write a proposal for working together, and submit it to the potential partner. The larger the business, the more detail such a proposal may require.
  4. Once a business is identified, have a frank discussion about the goals and parameters of the partnership. Make sure all potential activities, such as a business looking to advertise at a school, are acceptable to both sides.
  5. Develop activities that align with the school’s goals and the business’s culture. For example, prizes for a reading program could include certificates that give students discounts from the partnering business.
  6. Establish a management structure for the partnership, making sure both sides know who to contact so there is constant communication. When personnel changes, make sure the new employees get to know each other.
  7. Provide training for all who will be involved in partnership activities. Depending on the activity, it may be the school, business, or a third party that is best suited to provide training.
  8. Allow the community members to assess partnership activities and contribute to the partnership by serving on an accountability board.
  9. Make sure personnel involved in the partnership are recognized publicly and privately. Schools can set up appreciation meals for multiple business partners or recognize the business people during a meeting of a professional organization.
  10. Evaluate the partnership regularly to ensure goals are being met. This might include surveys for longer-running partnerships or simple conversations to assess short-term agreements.