While employed as a marketing professional, I had grown accustomed to facing difficult corporate problems. However, as I sat at my desk on a cold November day in 2009, it was an issue affecting my parents’ small business that really had me perplexed.

As owners and directors of a day camp in East Rockaway, my parents described to me a problem in meeting financial assistance requests for the upcoming camp season. A former scholarship camper himself, my father often provides families in need with generous grants because he understands 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 to the Long Island community without help. As day camp serves as an essential outlet for children to develop skills, friendship and confidence, it was necessary to find a feasible solution for my parents’ camp and the community. An answer was realized through the power of partnerships.

Partnership, in this context, may 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 lifelong partnerships through marriage. In the business world, corporations such as Verizon and American Express spend millions of dollars each year for the ability to partner with or sponsor sporting, entertainment and 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 may also be applied to smaller communities. Consider the example of the local day camp mentioned earlier:

  • The day camp 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. However, many parents lack have the steady income needed to afford tuition.
  • Businesses want to earn a higher profit but need additional consumers to buy their products.

By evaluating each partner’s needs and conducting extensive research within the community, my parents’ camp was eventually able to determine how resources could be shared. As a result, it developed a partnership called The Campmates Program.

Launched in 2010, The Campmates Program created a three-way partnership that benefits the community on several levels. The camp teamed up with Peninsula Counseling Center, one of the largest licensed mental health counseling facilities in Nassau County, to select deserving children for grants. To raise funds, local merchants were encouraged to sponsor these tuitions by receiving exclusive access to existing camp families and staff through a sponsorship of 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 camp experience at no cost to the family.

Larry Walder, owner of Alladin Auto Body in Brooklyn, New York, and a participant in The Campmates Program, notes the benefits of partnering with another local business. “I believe that kids who can’t afford camp need a chance,” he says. “But I also wanted to do this for the community.”

As intended, The Campmates Program has also greatly benefited local children in addition to businesses. “It was a blessing that this came through for my son,” one parent says 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.”

Day camps provide just one area in which to foster partnerships. The positive outcomes that may be achieved through partnerships are exponential, and initiatives may continue to evolve based on the community’s needs and periodic reevaluations. 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, partnerships can serve as the backbone for creating strong and vibrant societies.

The Campmates Program shows how a community can thrive through resourceful collaboration. When developing your own partnership program, keep in mind these tips:

  • Ensure all parties share the same values.
  • Identify each party’s unique strengths and resources, and do your research on needs in the community.
  • Create varying levels of participation to generate the largest reach.
  • Support your customers; many are also business owners.
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