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Questions from Coaches: What Partnerships Should I Pursue?

Community partnerships can grow your club

Bill Brenner | June 19, 2013

Q: What community partnerships should my program be pursuing?

A: There are three important categories of partnerships your program should actively pursue: community service, program growth, and financial benefit.

Community Service

Identify local agencies that share the same values as you, your program, and USMS. Reach out to the leadership of these programs to explore opportunities for involvement. Once you have a plan for working with these other organization, use your leadership skills by building a support team within your organization. Assign a member of the support team to be responsible for community services. Work together to encourage your members to commit their time, talents, and resources to a common cause.     

Collaboration with diversity programs such as Diversity in Aquatics and Urban Swim Program; local non-profit agencies and charities such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army Kroc Centers; and adult learn-to-swim programs, such as those offered by municipal parks and recreation departments and the YMCA of the USA will strengthen your program as a valuable asset to the community, promote growth and retention of your membership, and increase your program’s financial security. Added benefits include offering your swimmers meaningful community service opportunities, program growth, and financial growth.

Program Growth

Encouraging adults to swim for a healthier lifestyle is a common mantra that builds strong bridges with other swimming, health and well being, and fitness organizations. Don't assume everyone knows what Masters swimming represents. Make a personal visit to each of these groups and explore ways you can work together to bring more participation to your program. Collaborating with the following groups can raise your program’s profile within the community, while potentially attracting new members.

  • Approach local triathlon, cycling, and running clubs and offer to:
    • Host a swim clinic for their members
    • Offer a trial membership to your program
    • Volunteer at their events. If it goes well, they may in turn volunteer at your events!
  • Ask to make presentations about the benefits of swimming to health clubs and retirement communities
  • Hold an open house during one of your practices, followed by a social event
  • Connect with your local rehabilitation centers and VA hospital and offer to start a free wellness program
  • Invite the director and staff of the nonprofit you’d like to collaborate with to join you for a swim practice

Financial Benefits

In addition to doing good in your community, focusing your efforts can also help the local economy by leveraging your members’ purchasing power. If you reach out to local merchants, some may be willing to provide discounts, promotions, giveaways, and donations to your group to spur spending in the community.

  • Sponsorships. Recruit local businesses to become sponsors of your program. My favorite form of sponsorship is a cash donation in exchange for recognition. List your sponsors on your website, along with their logos and a links to their websites. Put their logos on the backs of event T-shirts, or ask them to set up an informational table at a meet where they can demo their products or tell attendees about their services. Advertise your sponsors with a banner, at their cost, to be hung at your facility.
  • Room discounts. When hosting an event, negotiate a block rate of rooms at a local hotel with a percentage of the room charges returned to your program as a cash incentive. Marriott, a corporate sponsor of USMS, is an excellent resource for event hosting.
  • Local merchant contributions or discounts. Smaller, more localized chains and businesses might also be able to help with everything from providing concessions for a meet to printing T-shirts for your open water swim. Local athletic stores might be very interested in setting up a booth at your event to sell swimwear and gear at a discount to participants (and a percentage to your program). Pool supply companies might want to reach out to your members by offering discounted pool installation or chemicals. Vitamin, health, or nutritional supplement stores might also be interested in attending and providing coupons in race goody bags. By working together, both your program and these local entities can benefit.
  • Referral incentive programs. Provide an incentive for the merchants who refer an athlete to your program. 

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About the Author—Bill Brenner

Bill Brenner is the Director of Club and Coach Services for U.S. Masters Swimming. He can answer questions about coaching, coach certification, and building your club. Contact him at bill.brenner@usms.org.

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