While employed as a marketing professional, I had grown accustomed to facing difficult corporate business problems. However, as I sat at my desk on a cold November day in 2009, it was an issue within my parents’ small business that really had me perplexed. As owners/directors of Rolling River Day Camp (RRDC) in East Rockaway, N.Y., they described a problem with meeting financial-assistance requests for the upcoming camp season. My father, once a scholarship camper himself, often provided families in need with generous grants since he understood the value of the camp experience. However, due to the recession, these requests were at an all-time high, and increased operating costs were making it difficult for my parents to continue giving back alone. As the camp serves as an essential outlet for children to socialize and learn new skills, it was necessary to find a feasible solution … and that answer was realized through the power of partnerships.
Partnership, in this context, can be defined as a mutually beneficial relationship that requires sharing resources to fulfill needs. Look closely and you will find that successful partnerships exist in all aspects of society. Countries form partnerships through trade agreements. Individuals foster life-long partnerships through marriage. In the business world, corporations, such as Verizon and American Express, spend millions of dollars each year for the opportunity to partner with or sponsor sporting, entertainment, or charitable events. Businesses essentially trade the ability to reach millions of people in exchange for the creation of more exciting consumer experiences.
Through creative and thoughtful approaches, the concept of partnering can also be successfully applied to smaller communities. Consider the example of Rolling River Day Camp:
- RRDC wishes to provide more children with the camp experience, but needs to cover costs to continue operating.
- Parents want their children to learn valuable life-skills at camp, but do not have the steady income needed to afford tuition.
- Businesses want to earn more profit, but need more consumers to buy their products.
By evaluating each partner’s needs and conducting extensive research within the community, the camp determined how resources could be shared, and ultimately developed a partnership called The Campmates Program.
Looking At It From All Angles
Launched in 2010, the program created a three-way partnership that benefited the community on several levels. RRDC teamed up with PeninsulaCounselingCenter–one of the largest, licensed mental-health counseling facilities in NassauCounty–to select deserving children for camp grants. To raise additional funds, local merchants were encouraged to provide these tuitions by receiving exclusive access to RRDC families and staff by sponsoring camp events, promotions, and other networking opportunities. The result was an innovative solution–local businesses obtained a unique marketing platform to grow sales while parents could now provide their children with a safe, enriching summer experience at no cost to the family.
Larry Walder, owner of Alladin Auto Body and a Campmates sponsor, supported the partnership from the beginning. “I believe that kids who can’t afford camp need a chance, but I also wanted to do this for the community since I do business in the community,” Walder notes. As intended, the program has greatly benefited local
children. “It was a blessing that this came through for my son,” one parent said about her child’s scholarship. “Through the generosity of the community, I was able to bring him here and let him have this wonderful experience. It’s just a gift, considering how tough it’s been the last few months in our house.”
It’s Your Turn
The program is only one example of how a community can thrive through resourceful collaboration. When developing a partnership program, here are several tips:
- Ensure all parties share the same values.
- Identify each party’s unique strengths and resources, and do research on needs in the community.
- Create varying levels of participation to generate the largest reach.
- Support your own customers … many are business owners themselves.
The positive outcomes achieved through partnerships are exponential. It is important to note though that this program is in its infancy, and will continue to evolve based on the community’s needs and annual re-evaluations. Furthermore, the case of RollingRiver is just one example of how to foster partnerships. Through individual research, this model can be successfully adapted for every community across the country. Whether expanding a brand’s reach or sending a deserving child to camp, it’s clear that partnerships can serve as the backbone for creating strong and vibrant societies.
A special thanks to The Campmates Program sponsors: Alladin Auto Body, Green Art Plumbing Supply, While They’re Little, Officediscountclub.com, Z Best Maintenance, NEFCU, SVS Fine Jewelry, and Jessica and Zachary Kerr. These sponsors were honored at PeninsulaCounselingCenter’s 2010 major fundraiser for their support of local children.
Marissa Goodman is the Business Development Supervisor at Rolling River Day Camp, and is currently attending BaruchCollege for her MBA. After graduating from CornellUniversity in 2006, she held positions on both the client and agency sides of the advertising world, specializing in events, sponsorships, and promotions. For more information on the program, contact Goodman at email@example.com or 516-593-2267.