Home News & Events NEA Big Read Survival Guide: Partnerships (Part III)

NEA Big Read Survival Guide: Partnerships (Part III)

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?

Developing partner relationships

So now you’ve identified a few organizations who you’d like to ask to partner with you. But how do you approach them? There are a number of ways to approach a potential partner or sponsor, and all of them start with getting the partner involved with the project in the beginning and planning stages. For example:

  • Form a planning committee and invite representatives from local organizations to serve on the committee.
  • Send the leaders of your potential partners a copy of the book you’ll read, along with your organization’s vision for your NEA Big Read.


University of Central Florida’s Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities picks up his NEA Big Read book. Photo courtesy of Keri Watson.

  • Ask for a meeting with the leader and marketing staff of an organization you’d like to partner with. Prepare and bring a sample one-page NEA Big Read project description, outlining what you are planning to do with the grant.
  • Lean on existing connections! If you have worked with someone at that organization in the past, reach out to them and ask if they may be able to give you a direct referral to someone at the organization who might be able to sit down and talk with you about a partnership.

Once you’ve established those partnerships, remember that it is an ongoing conversation! Partnerships are important relationships. Find time in your day to ensure that your partners are informed, involved, and engaged in the planning and implementation of your NEA Big Read. Thank them at public events, celebrate program successes with them, host a book discussion for their staff and employees.

Other posts in this series

Explore the full Survival Guide

Next in the Survival Guide series: Marketing & Promotion!


Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Denver kickoff for their 2017 NEA Big Read on Citizen: An American Lyric. Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Writers Workshop.