Communications tips for sustaining partnerships

How to build lasting relationships

Partnerships are essential for establishing long-term sustainability, but you must also look at partnerships as a way to keep telling the afterschool story to ever-widening circles of community leaders to make them feel like part of the afterschool community.

It is important that you recognize the important contributions that your partners make toward sustaining and enhancing the quality of your afterschool programs. Below are a couple of ideas for ways that you can honor your partners:

Recognize your partners at events, such as Lights On Afterschool! You can acknowledge them in materials promoting the event, or you can also invite them to take part in the celebration. For example, Flowing Wells School District 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Tucson, Arizona, invited their community partners, including the fire department and family health organizations, to set up informational booths at a carnival celebration.

Submit a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local newspaper, acknowledging your partners' support. The Afterschool Alliance has created a number of tools to help you write and submit letters to the editors and op-eds, and they can be found on the Afterschool Alliance website.

  • Feature your partners prominently on your website, on event fliers and in your informational brochures. Be sure to ask your partner if they have a logo that you could use.
  • Create an afterschool "wall of fame" at your program, where you can feature all of your partners and their contributions.
  • Thank your partners' leadership for their support. You can send a letter of thanks to their board of directors, or even offer to make a personal appearance at their board meetings to acknowledge their contributions. And be specific about how their contribution has supported your program. For example, if a partner has donated use of a vehicle for transporting students to and from your program, mention how many students have been able to attend your program as a result of this donation.
  • Nominate a partner for a community service award.
  • Provide your partners with tangible reminders of what they've supported. To thank all of the sponsors of their 2005 Lights On Afterschool event, the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance provided each with a gift basket that included promotional items such as event T-shirts and the press release, as well as a DVD of the event. Another idea is to offer to have your students share their work from projects supported by your partners at their annual meetings or conferences.


Business, city and community leaders can be powerful spokespeople to speak to the importance of afterschool programs for your community's youth and families. Ask your partners to testify at hearings or write letters to elected officials in support of afterschool. The Afterschool Alliance has created materials to help you educate policymakers about the importance of funding and support for afterschool, such as tips for contacting policymakers and sample letters to elected officials about the importance of afterschool programs.

  • Ask your partners to feature their afterschool work in their newsletters, on their website or in their annual reports. Provide them with descriptions of projects that they have supported, emphasizing student outcomes and success stories. Include pictures of the students engaging in these projects, samples of student work, or letters of thanks and testimonials from the students and parents.
  • Invite your partners to collaborate with you on a joint presentation or workshop to share your partnership story. In addition to meetings and conferences focused on afterschool or youth development, you should consider expanding your reach to include meetings and conferences convened by professional or civic organizations with whom your partners are affiliated. Your partners will have credibility with their peers, which will help facilitate the introduction of afterschool to these new audiences.