Building Partnerships

Building Partnerships

Partnerships combine experience and expertise in collaborative efforts. These can be formal or informal agreements among interested parties to work toward the same goal or goals. Partnerships for migratory birds; coordinate conservation efforts at international, national, regional, state, and local levels; share conservation priorities with the public through outreach programs.

Partnership Introduction

Partnerships work together to implement projects and accomplish common goals and objectives. Partners offer a variety of specific strengths and capabilities to bird conservation projects, and organizations can accomplish shared objectives more effectively and efficiently in a partnership than they can alone. Some partnerships or agreements may be enabled by a convention, a treaty, a memorandum of understanding or simply a shared interest.

Many partnerships are non-binding in the sense that there is usually not a legal contract – this may not be the case when grant monies are involved. When partnerships are based on more formal document or agreement, there may be statements that allow partners to have freedom to accomplish common goals as needed. Pulling together a partnership can be exciting and invigorating. Working as a team can be more exciting than working alone.

Choosing Partners

Partnerships need good leadership to steer things an agreed upon desired direction. New partners have new skills, new capacity and new ideas. Consider partners that have the skills you need. Partners also have their own mission and objectives. There is a balance between their dedication to their own mission and their desire or ability to be a partner with a shared mission. Focus on what you have in common.

Two key questions should be asked:

  • What can I give to the partnership?
  • What can I get from the partnership?

The more partners, outreach and the more communication - the better. Many will come to the table with an important idea or other contribution. To achieve agreed-upon objectives, all possible partners who can help need to be considered.

Types of partnerships

Consider reaching out to audiences that are not already engaged in birds and their conservation.

  • City Tourist Bureau
  • Conservation organizations
  • Urban Planner/City Administrators
  • Working with corporations - effective and influential
  • Organizations working with urban youth and urban communities - traditional (conservation-related, educational) and non-traditional (neighborhood associations, garden clubs, ethnic groups/associations, locally-owned businesses i.e. bike rental shops, etc.)
  • Organizations/groups that influence broad audiences.
  • Community organizations and eco-tourism

Finding Partners

Recruiting calls for as wide a distribution of information as possible. Distribution of information tends to be done through:

  • Social media
  • Speakers bureaus
  • Notices in newsletters (churches, corporate, club)
  • Radio talk shows
  • PSAs (Public Service Announcements)
  • Group recruitment (fraternity, community service club)
  • Booth at volunteer fairs Posters (libraries, senior citizen centers, etc.)
  • Mass production of fliers or brochures widely distributed

Distribute flyers in many places (don’t forget to post through all available social media outlets as appropriate!):

  • Libraries
  • Senior centers
  • Bulletin boards in churches, stores, businesses, etc.
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Volunteer fairs
  • Community events
  • Door-to-door
  • Schools and universities
  • Health clubs
  • Recreation, centers
  • Shopping malls
  • Professional organizations
  • Grocery bag stuffers
  • Community center

Create a Communication Strategy

Work to create a communication strategy that fits your immediate audiences and situation.

  • Define the issue
  • Identify the action needed
  • Identify the tools needed to communicate issue, messages and actions
  • Create appropriate communication tools:
    • letters to the editor
    • press releases
    • public service announcements
    • flyers for distribution
    • PowerPoint presentation
    • press packet- this should include press release, fact sheets, flyers, public service announcements, recent articles, etc.
    • Facebook and other social media posts

News Releases

Make news releases as personal as possible. State appeals so organizations feel they are essential to the functioning of the campaign or actions. Be as brief as possible. List a contact person who is easy to reach.

Visit the editorial board of the local paper

Work with your partners to set an appointment with the editorial staff. Be clear about your message. Write key messages that will resonate with local interests and provide copies of a press or informational packet that includes fact sheets and other visual aids.

Attract partners

Get all active volunteers involved in thinking up new methods for recruiting. Use every available resource: radio, television, newspapers AND personal contacts. Have a series of coffee sessions and ask current partners/volunteers to tell their story and inspire others to do likewise.

Develop attractive, creative materials. If applicable, use your website as a recruitment tool. Always be enthusiastic in whatever approach(es) you use. Use attractive mail-outs (this has proven to be an effective way of reaching targeted audiences) followed by telephone calls. Develop a contact within the clubs/groups and let those contacts work for you.

Develop interesting presentations -- most clubs/groups are looking for programs and are eager to have someone present interesting topics. Invite groups to visit your meetings and view your programs.

Working relationships

In most cases, partners can’t be made to do things. Some tasks are accomplished on different timetables than may be desirable, but happen as funding and staffing (or volunteers) are available. Projects are directed by committee. There may not be an actual budget which may make projects complicated as resources are limited.


Every partner contributes funding to bird conservation action. This includes the salary of staff to participate in field work and meetings as well as in-kind services such as printing, website management and other resources such as creating and offering education and outreach programs.

Partnership Management

Partnership “position descriptions” describe a desired partnership position. Include purpose of partnership, duties, responsibilities, limitations, qualifications needed, time commitment, training plan, evaluation plan, and benefits.


Document work done by the partners and their volunteers (i.e., hours, tasks, successes, failures, etc.). Ensure that the information is reported in a useful way that benefits' the organization.

Partnership Communication

Inclusion of additional partners or people who should be include in communication pieces. Regular communication should include:

  • Frequent communications and due dates (this encourages progress)
  • Regular touch-base calls to keep momentum going
  • Regular acknowledgement of accomplished tasks and good work
  • Regular updates should include shareholders and the general public

Examples of Partnerships that Work

Some of the best known national outreach and education programs for birds are held to celebrate  World Migratory Bird Day. Hundreds of other local bird education and outreach programs are offered by bird observatories, Urban Bird Treaty cities,  Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the  National Park Service,  National Wildlife Refuges,  National Audubon Society,  National Wildlife Federation, and the  North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI).

No matter what geographic scale or what particular project is being proposed, there are partners who share a common interest. Networking, attending meetings and getting involved helps further the goal!

Last Updated: June 19, 2018