Layoffs, tightening budgets, employees being asked to do more with less … these are the realities of today’s economy and, like people in most other industries, aquatics professionals need solutions.
A partnership is one paradigm that may prove worthwhile, even
beyond the current recession. These mutually beneficial
relationships leverage the core competencies of multiple
organizations to accomplish what cannot be accomplished alone.
Funding is often the No. 1 problem in aquatics, and strategically
developing cohesive partnerships is one way to expand your breadth
of service, outreach and perceived value.
Traditionally, partnerships develop through relationships and
common purpose, but today they may be forged out of necessity. As
tax coffers continue to shrink and recreation agencies compete for
funding with fire, police, EMS and public works, more agencies are
likely to consider developing partnerships.
Moreover, partnerships help build a sense of community and
develop public trust through efficient and effective stewardship of
local resources. For aquatics professionals, the ultimate goal of
any partnership must be a collaborative effort to positively affect
the community and meet local recreation needs.
Think “partnership,” not “sponsorship.”
When agencies reach out to other organizations essential to the
quality of life and economic impact of the community, arrangements
may or may not involve direct funding.
One example of a successful partnership is Waggin’ at the
Waterpark, an end-of-season dog swim at Discovery
Island Waterparkin Greenville, S.C. Park operators knew they
wanted to run the event, but no funding was available so they made
it happen by joining forces with the local humane society, dog
rescue groups, local veterinarians and others. More than 350 dogs
participated and all admission fees went to build new dog park
facilities. The dog swim gained enormous community support and
requests to do it again.
Beyond such events, partner-ships could encompass program
development, facility use or access to decision-makers. They also
may provide cross-marketing opportunities that benefit the
When The Blood Connectionin Greenville, S.C., was short on
supply, Discovery Island Waterpark found an opportunity to partner.
Those who gave blood received a free pass to the waterpark. Blood
donations and waterpark attendance increased, and both agencies
How can you jump on board? Following are a few guidelines for
developing powerful partnerships.
- Open your eyes. To begin developing new
relationships, look throughout your community and start talking to
The Greenville County Recreation District in South Carolina has
taken the partnership approach and developed relationships with a
host of agencies in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The
list includes school districts, colleges, local youth sports
associations and the Red Cross.
- Look for in-house opportunities. For
example, could your agency cross-promote its waterpark and the
local ice rink? The offer: Attend one facility and receive a
discount to visit the other.
Also consider developing partnerships with media outlets. Get to
know the local press and help them create special interest stories
involving your staff, safety, facilities or programs.
- Persevere. In approaching groups that
are new to partnerships, you may encounter resistance. Just
remember it takes time and energy to reach out, demonstrate
potential benefits and build trust.
- Create a culture of collaboration.
Everyone in your organization should understand the value and
potential benefits of partnerships. Make customer service your
highest priority and work to build lasting relationships.
- Be willing to give. As you build
relationships with potential partners, recognize the benefits both
agencies can provide, and view possibilities in terms of consensus
rather than compromise. Ask questions such as, “If we could
partner on a project, program or activity, what it be?”
“What creates a win-win?” “What resources and
core competencies can be leveraged?”
- Identify and establish common goals.
Goals might be an addition to an existing aquatics center,
developing a new waterpark, or meeting the needs of a growing swim
The GCRD currently is doing all three of those projects in
conjunction with a community aquatic alliance, booster club, Red
Cross and local politicians. The developments will enhance the
community’s quality of life, and without the combined efforts
of everyone involved they may not have been possible.