Building community relationships: Part 2 – Where to find partners

Explore strategic suggestions for identifying and locating potential community partners.

If someone were to tell you to go out into your community and start “building relationships” you may feel overwhelmed and might even have a little anxiety. That’s a huge task! You may ask: Is there a manual for accomplishing that? Is there a how-to guide? Is there someone who can give me instructions? The answer to all of those questions is: No! However, there are some tips and tricks that may help you to build community relationships.

In an earlier article we explored definitions related to building community relationships. Now, let’s look at where those organizations and individuals may be in our community and how you make those connections to start building relationships.

Where do we find people or organizations in our community that would serve as good partners? This question can seem very overwhelming whether the community is large or small. To make this task less daunting, set some attainable goals. Perhaps making contact with one person or organization each month would be an appropriate goal.

One of the first ways to find people and organizations to build relationships with is to look – look at your local newspaper. What types of stories are being printed that have a youth focus? Does a community website exist? What events or types of youth events are taking place and who is sponsoring or organizing them?

Second, ask questions! It’s vital to ask questions because we live in a state of constant change. New organizations come about and people change positions, so it’s important to ask questions to stay up-to-date. You can start by asking, “Where are the youth in this community? Where are the schools? When youth aren’t in school, where are they and what are they doing? Is there a group that already exists in the community that focuses on youth topics?”

 Where there are youth, you’ll likely find a person or organization to build a relationship with. Consider organizations that also work in youth development or have a focus on family. Examples might be the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA/YWCA, FFA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army or the local literacy council.

It’s also important to listen to what’s going on in the community. Turn on a local radio station and tune in to what types of service projects they’re talking about. Listen to what people are saying at work, at the bank, at the grocery store and even at the mall. Don’t forget that internet radio stations have become very popular as people stream music through their computers. Find out if there are internet radio stations in your community. It’s a great skill to open your ears to listen for opportunities to build relationships.

Finally, get out and into the community – break away from your house or office. Arm yourself with business cards, some of your organization’s flyers and your personal calendar. It can be difficult to set aside time to look, ask and listen; therefore, if you are the type of person who makes connections better in person, get out there!

Remember that each community is different and boasts a variety of resources, so getting out there is very important. Visit the Chamber of Commerce, the local school administration building, city hall or the county building. Join different groups and think about connections you might have in your life. Introduce yourself and be prepared to ask some key questions to start building relationships. Remember that when you’re building relationships, one of the most important pieces is to learn about their mission and vision, as well as how they serve families and youth in the community. It may be a good idea to refresh yourself with your organization’s mission and vision statements.

Try not to feel overwhelmed when building community relationships. Just take it one step at a time: look, ask questions, listen and get out in the community. Your foundation for success is being set.

The first article in this series worked through definitions associated with building community relationships. Now, you have more information about where to find organizations and individuals in your community to start making connections and building relationships. The last article in this series, we will determine appropriate communication methods and boundaries related to building community relationships.