In addition to selecting a primary location for programming, whether it’s a school, public housing, or another community program, “I Have A Dream” programs can benefit from partnering with other community organizations to share a wider range of skills and resources while deepening relationships and support for Dreamers within the local community. Whatever your program model, the key to thriving is leveraging existing resources in your community for the benefit of Dreamers and their families. Many organizations, institutions, agencies, and businesses can offer support.
The National “I Have A Dream” Foundation has some established partnerships with national community partners, like AmeriCorps and Opportunity Network. You can access this list of organizations and resources in the Menu of Services. When assessing your community to establish a program, you will have also assessed some existing community partners, and those tools may be valuable here (see section on “How to Assess Core Sites & Partnerships”).
Consider approaching traditional service organizations—the Rotary Club, YMCAs, or Boys & Girls Clubs—as well as professional associations, congregations, fire departments, the Chamber of Commerce, unions, and neighborhood associations. These can be sources of mentors, chaperons, workplace visits, joint community service projects, tickets to special events, and donated professional services.
Also identify and form relationships with area social service agencies so that the program has a list of referrals for Dreamers or family members who need special guidance or assistance. Social service agencies may also lend their expertise to provide training and informational sessions of interest to parents, Dreamers, staff, or volunteers.
Your expansion committee members can also help by making initial contacts with these organizations.
When assessing community partners, it’s helpful to ask the following questions:
- Is the facility convenient to where the Dreamers live? Will they need transportation?
- What kind of programming does the partner offer?
- Are the Dreamers already using the facility?
- Can the facility provide enough office, meeting, and recreational space to suit the program’s needs?
- What’s the atmosphere like at the facility? Will the Dreamers and their families be comfortable there?
- Can the “I Have A Dream” program offer anything in return for the partner’’s services? For example, are the Dreamers an underserved age group, or will the “I Have A Dream” program help develop a tutoring program for many children in the community?
- Are the Executive Director and other staff members receptive to IHDF?
- Have other IHDF Programs operated out of this facility (or similar organizations in other communities)? If so, was their experience a good one?
- Would IHDF have to pay overhead or rent for space?
- What kind of staff support, training, and administrative help will the partner offer?
When on a partner site visit, look for the following things:
- Lots of activity that is reasonably well organized
- Friendly, polite, and good-natured staff people
- Clean and well-maintained facilities
- Safe and secure facilities both in the day and evening
- Availability of computers and office equipment that are reasonably up-to-date and functioning properly
Here are some additional pointers for establishing relationships in the community:
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Whenever the program has a new need, brainstorm a list of existing organizations that may be able to help meet it. Think of forging partnerships before spending valuable time and money working independently.
- Start small. Asking for a small commitment at first gives the organization time to get to know IHDF. If it is pleased with its experience, it may expand its support.
- Ask for advice. If an organization seems hesitant to get involved initially, ask for its advice and guidance. It will still form the basis of a future relationship and may lead to other resources.
- Provide specific ideas. Be prepared with specific suggestions for how an organization can get involved such as providing mentors or summer jobs to Dreamers. Make it easy for the organization to see how it fits into IHDF’s mission.
- Develop a contact person. Develop a relationship with a primary contact person in the organization who can shepherd the program through the organization’s channels , steer resources in the program’s direction, and advocate for the program.
- Rely on word of mouth. If volunteers and organizations have a good experience working with IHDF, they will talk about their positive experiences and other resources and relationships will follow.
- Say thank you. In newsletters, at special events, with personal correspondence and at every interaction, express the program’’s gratitude for volunteers’ and the organizations’ support. Make sure Dreamers do the same.