Creating partnerships with fellow community members is a wonderful opportunity to build community presence for your Christian school. Partnerships not only are about strengthening ties within the community, but they are also a marketing opportunity often overlooked by Christian schools. Partnerships can be especially helpful if you are trying to establish your brand new brick-and-mortar school within a neighborhood.

Partnering with other established organizations gives your school credibility and shows that local members are interested in cross-promoting your educational services to their customers. Because education options are so vital within communities, the more your Christian school embraces the surrounding area and the more it intertwines with existing organizations, the more likely you are to experience success.

Regardless of whether your Christian school is affiliated with a particular religious denomination, you can still benefit from community outreach activities. Why not broaden opportunities during the summer months and using them as a free way to market your school?

Here are few ideas to get started building community partnerships:

1. Determine Influential Community Members

Do some research. Get out there and hit the pavement to get to know people in your community. Find out what they believe. Talk to people. Find out what other public or private schools are available in your area. (Partnerships with other schools can be beneficial when referring families to other alternatives.)

Study the missions and goals of the other organizations and businesses before deciding to align your school with them. Decide if their beliefs or actions align with your Christian school's. Does their audience match the audience you are looking for? Don't forget about non-profit organizations too. Offering volunteer services in return for promotion by the non-profit can be valuable exposure; it also offers an opportunity to give back to the community through charity.

Please note: Businesses and other churches are often careful when supporting private faith-based schools. However, many Christian schools have strong relationships with local and national companies and neighborhood churches.

2. Make Your Partnership Decision

Now it's time to evaluate members, organizations, and businesses your school should partner with. Of course, it's important to partner with someone you trust and who shares similar faith values. Since school has limited resources and time, pick the most important community partners and vote to decide whom you should focus on. A temptation will be to partner with everyone possible. Don't spread yourself thin. Commit only to those you can share with until you can build a reputation of quality and trust in your neighborhood.

If your goal is to raise enrollment, do promotions with other schools or businesses that have the same target audience. For example, if you have a local Christian book store that partners with you, ask the manager if he would promote your school to shoppers and in return, you would promote the store to your school's enrolled students.

3. Forge Creativity in Partnerships

Partnerships with community members can be productive as you make them. You can simply hang up fliers in entry ways of your local grocery store, or you can volunteer to help out your local radio station or newspaper in return for them promoting your Christian school with advertisements or mentions in stories. Think outside the box!

Consider forming a permanent volunteer group that allows you to change projects every year. Do a class project to pick up litter and adopt a highway and get a signpost with your Christian school's name. Ask a local clothing store to donate T-shirts in return for you including their brand name. Solicit businesses for scholarships in return for media publicity from your school. The sky is the limit on creative partnerships.

4. Publicize Partnerships in Local Media

Why not publicize your community partnerships in the local media? Tell others about the great things your Christian school is doing with your partners in the community, along with any special opportunities available to families interested in enrollment. There's no place like home for advertising your school.

News about events, volunteering, group activities, and scholarships are eagerly sought by reporters and are a great way to get your Christian school in the local press. Offer tips to news stations and papers prior to partnership activities or write a short press release on major events for the year and email it to your local media. Include pictures in your press releases too.

Don't forget to add news items to your Christian school's website, newsletter, and social media so your currently enrolled students and parents can read them too!

5. Evaluate Partnership Effectiveness

It's a good idea to evaluate your partnerships. Set a time table such as every several months or perhaps on an annual basis to review the value of your relationship. Some partners may be more valuable or giving than others. If you are struggling with a partnership, perhaps the time investment of the partnership should be questioned. If your partnership is blooming and both of you are being strengthened, consider being more involved.

Proceed with caution when considering ending or spending less time in partnerships. Community members can be affronted or hurt by a relationship ending, just as in a personal relationship. Explain the reasons why you are considering ending the relationship or investing less time in it. Make sure each of you has a mutual understanding of the situation.

Making It Happen

Building partnerships with community members can be a great tool for marketing your Christian school. It often is a free way to promote your school but requires a certain amount of time to be successful. Getting the message out about your school can be half the battle when trying to establish yourself within a community. Community relationships improve your status, the community fiber and morale, and your school's credibility to outside audiences.

Partnerships with like-minded individuals, businesses, or organizations can prove beneficial for cross-promotion. Common goals offer the approach of divide-and-conquer for reaching a similar audience. Partnerships and volunteering also have an intangible benefit of teaching and showing Christ-like character to others in need, both to faculty, students, and neighbors.

Who has partnered with your Christian school? How do you build community relationships?