Planning a community-wide arts engagement program can be challenging. To help ease the struggle, we’ve put together a series of posts which we lovingly dub The NEA Big Read Survival Guide. Each post contains some of the best tips and tricks that NEA Big Read grantees have learned over their years. In this post, we’ll be tackling Partnerships. How do you make that initial connection to a new partner? How can you make sure that your partner feels involved in the program? How can partnerships help you reach your community?
Categories of partnerships
Throughout the years of NEA Big Reads, organizations have had a breadth and range of partners: from newspapers to hospitals, schools to small businesses, power companies to churches. When you’re thinking about potential partnerships, think outside the box! Here are a few categories of organizations where you may want to brainstorm.
- Government organizations. Books could be available as citizens wait for driver’s licenses; mayors, governors, and legislators could endorse and participate in the program.
- Media. In addition to media relations efforts, think about approaching the promotional offices of your local media to discuss sponsorships and public service announcements. Consider all types of media, including newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and local bloggers.
- Schools. Bring the NEA Big Read to classrooms; find college students to volunteer as book discussion facilitators; think of companion books that might work for a younger audience as part of your NEA Big Read.
- Corporations. Consider gifts of time, talent, resources, and funding. Is there an opportunity to work directly with a corporation’s employees?
- Small businesses. Small businesses may help with marketing and promotion to their customers; and you’ll be bolstering the local community and community engagement!
- Utilities companies. Power companies send monthly bills. Could they include a bill stuffer on your NEA Big Read?
- Nonprofit organizations. Consider hospitals, parent organizations, arts organizations, etc.
- Faith-based groups. Places of worship have the ability to reach a large number of people on an ongoing basis and encourage volunteerism.
- Unlikely groups that could inspire new readers. Think daringly on this one. Which groups would you like to connect to, but it seems impossible? Reach out! You never know who might become a long-term partner.
2017-2018 NEA Big Read grantee, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, shared how they connected with an unlikely partner in Kenosha, WI:
“REI was a new partner for us this year. One of our staff members often attends the classes they offer at their store location about an hour away and asked if the outdoor survival class could be taught offsite. REI agreed and offered the free class for only the cost of travel…This class was the first of our NEA Big Read events to fill to maximum capacity, and that happened via online registration almost two weeks before the NEA Big Read began!”