Building and Nurturing Business/Corporate Partnerships: Lessons Learned (Jack Rhoton)

Building and Nurturing Business/Corporate Partnerships: Lessons Learned
Jack Rhoton

The ETSU Northeast STEM Innovation Hub has had reasonable success in establishing partnerships with businesses in the region.  Even though the ETSU STEM Hub has received financial donations from businesses, the Hub does not view a business partnership solely on the basics of a financial donation.  Often times a financial donation is a one-time act, which may only require some reporting to the contributing organization at the end of the year.  We have found it is challenging at times to create a true business partnership, and even more challenging to sustain it over time.  We have found it takes a lot of effort and hard work to build and nurture personal relationships with a particular business.  This work is sometimes complicated by the fact that personnel changes occur which has the potential to jeopardize a sustained relationship.  However, we have learned that a true business partnership can have many more advantages over a one-shot financial contribution from a particular business or organization.  And the effort that goes into building true partnerships is well worth the work and effort it takes to establish these relationships.  For example, it has been our experience that a true corporate partner can bolster efforts to enlist other companies to support our efforts without them being the sole means of support; thereby, providing us inroads with other corporate sponsors and groups that we otherwise would not have been able to establish.  It has also been our experience that a true partnership can contribute to growing our STEM Hub’s vision.  Viable partnerships do not just happen; they take much thought and planning.   Below are some of the lessons we have learned when attempts are made to build and sustain business and corporate partnerships:

•     The most successful partnerships have been the ones that believe in what we are doing and that share our vision and goals.  However, it is important not to put a lot of demands on the business partner.  It is important to give the business partner the latitude to be the facilitator and catalyst, i.e., if this is the role the business partner wants to play. 

•     It cannot be over emphasized how important it is to establish personal relationships. There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with potential business personnel to see if they share our Hub’s vision of STEM education and to determine if areas of infrastructure and expertise correctly align.  In addition to face-to-face meeting, it is important to constantly keep in touch, making follow-up phone calls and sending letters.  Nurturing the partnership is the key.  And nurturing sometimes requires persistence.

•     The goals of the partnership must be clearly communicated. What do we want to accomplish? What are the metrics? How is the corporate investment going to be measured? What are the expected outcomes? 

We believe in the power of partnerships.  It is a way to bring our region together in support of STEM education and to build capacity and to create the best learning environment possible for our students at all level.  Partnerships can build synergy and help nurture the passion and enthusiasms needed for preparing students for the 21st century economy.

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