Six Questions to Ask When Screening Corporate Partners
AbstractPartnerships between public recreation agencies and corporations are rapidly becoming an accepted mechanism to generate additional resources, which could not otherwise be provided with existing public funds. However, there are several risks inherent in the establishment of these partnerships, including bad publicity based on negative press, the risk that existing funding sources will be compromised, and the risk that the partnership does not fulfill corporate/agency objectives. In light of these risks, recreation agencies need to establish screening mechanisms that select appropriate corporate partners and partnerships. Unfortunately, few corporate partnership efforts have used formal criteria to guide public recreation managers in the selection process. This paper proposes six guidelines (presented as questions) and are gleaned from a variety of sources including agency partnership guidebooks, partnership case studies, and existing partnership research findings. The six questions are:1) Will the public support this kind of partner and partnership?2) Is there a match between the target market of the corporation and the audience served by the park agency?3) Is the corporation part of an industry or product category that is consistent with the values, image, or mission of the park agency?4) Does the corporation practice any behavior inconsistent with the values, image, or mission of the park agency?5) Will the corporation be flexible with their partnership agreement?6) Will the partnership interfere with existing agency practices or compromise pre-existing resources?Existing guidelines and partnership research suggests that park managers should choose corporations with a natural link to the mission of the agency and the agencies’ publics. While the general public prefers companies with a nature and recreation image, other companies would still be perceived positively if they have a strong community presence. Corporations should also have an established partnership track record and be willing to create flexible partnership arrangements to minimize risks. One way to create a flexible partnership agreement is to establish short-term contract goals with early renewal/termination dates. Finally, partnerships must not interfere with existing agency resources and practices. Park agencies must strive to separate corporate partners from decision-making committees and they must communicate to the public how additional partnership resources will use to supplement and not supplant existing public resources. As corporate partnerships continue to flourish, more systematic research will be needed on what partnership criteria are acceptable for different kinds of recreation agencies.
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