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3 Models for Event Partnership

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At TAP-Chicago we frequently collaborate with different community organizations on a variety of projects and events. Sometimes it can be challenging to reconcile differing expectations about roles and responsibilities. While each event is a little different, here are 3 models we use when partnering.

The most common arrangement we use is a Marketing Co-sponsorship. In this case, one organization takes the lead and does the bulk of the planning. The lead org comes up with the event date, structure, and content, arranges the logistics, creates the marketing materials, staffs the event, and takes on the financial commitments and P&L. Often times, the lead org does much of the work before even approaching potential partners. The non-lead or co-sponsoring organization’s role is to market the event to their members and supporters the same way they would an event they organized themselves. Sometimes, the co-sponsor makes a financial donation or provides some day-of staff or other help.

While the contribution to the event organization is unequal, in a Marketing Co-Sponsorship we market the event with the two organizations as equal co-sponsors with both organizations similarly listed on the event flyer, facebook, webpage, registration page, etc. The only indication of the different roles to the public are incidental: for example, since the nametags, sign-in sheets, and staff for the event usually come from the lead organization, attendees might deduce the division of labor. Since the event is marketed the same way as the co-sponsor’s own event, there is informally a greater commitment to push turnout and there is usually a significant attendance from the co-sponsoring organization.

We commonly use this arrangement when one organization has stronger interest or better positioning to organize an event or when the scale of the event is small enough that it is more efficient for one organization to do the bulk of the planning with limited coordination with the other organization. Often, we will alternate lead organization responsibilities with a partner organization for a series of similar events.

A less common arrangement for us is a Planning Co-sponsorship where both organizations share responsibility for planning and decision making and finances are usually shared. Depending on the specifics of the event, we sometimes split each function with a joint team from each organization or split the functions between the organizations. Either way, the result is a more even sharing of responsibilities. We don’t usually do this much due to the high coordination costs in a volunteer setting and the need for a longer project timeline. However, we believe joint planning has the potential to yield stronger events and we seek these opportunities whenever they make sense.

Finally, another common arrangement is a Marketing Partnership. As in the Marketing Co-sponsorship, one organization has primary responsibility for an event. But for Marketing Partnerships, the partner org does not market the event as their own event. Instead, they present the event to their members as an external community event supported by the organization. Often times, the marketing for the event makes the different roles clear, whether it’s through logo placement or text description. Some situations where we use this arrangement are when there are a very large number of organizations involved in an event, when we’re not able to commit to extensive marketing because one of our events is too close to the partner event, or if we feel an event isn’t a close match.

Regardless of the collaboration type, the hope is that cooperation creates more high-quality, well-attended events that promote fortuitous interactions. And our goal for partner events is the same as for solo organized ones: to strengthen our communities through community service, professional development, cultural awareness, and leadership development.

So how does this line up with how you or your organization think about collaborations? Any suggestions or comments?

You can reach Hauwei at hauwei at tapchicago dot org.

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