Paxton/Patterson Blog

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Keeping the Spark Alive: Long-Term Success in Partnerships

by MAlutto 12. November 2013 05:05

Any married couple will tell you that relationships are hard work. As we learned in my last blog, there are four stages to relationship development, but I left out an essential tidbit necessary for long-term success. Keep the spark, the passion, the intensity alive – fan the flame at all costs! This is the same with your advisory board and other long-term school partners. After a period of time, the initial spark will fade and level of commitment may diminish.
One of our parnters, the National Academy Foundation (NAF) has a resource called the Advisory Board Story Map. This pictorial representation of the phases of advisory board development is a creative approach to sharing oodles of critical information. Consider ‘The 5 R’s of Sustainability’ as you achieve long-term success:


  • Renewal – Renew the existing roles of current board members; change their positions, or the committees they serve on. Think of it like your domestic chore chart. If the same person has been cooking dinner for the last ten years, it may be a good time to switch it up!


  • Reward – Honor your school’s partners regularly. Hold special events to highlight their hard work and contributions. Consider having alumni share meaningful stories about the impact board members had on their success. Tug at the heart strings and remind them why they are there! I mean, how long would a couple last if neither ever acknowledged the other’s contributions? A little appreciation goes a long way.


  • Recognition – Recognizing an individual’s involvement doesn’t always have to be at a special event – or on a birthday or anniversary. Finding ways to say ‘thank you’ along the way will help keep the sparks flying. Have students write thank you notes, or submit a write-up about a particular event or internship experience to a local newspaper. After all, it’s the little things that matter most.


  • Recommitment – After a period of time, it may be necessary to ask companies or specific board members to restate their level of commitment to your school’s mission and goals. Creating this formality forces an individual to reconsider his or her intentions and recent contributions. Nowadays, I think it is a very special occasion when a couple chooses to renew their vows, stating publicly that both are still committed to loving each other forever.
    Now there may be board members who do not feel comfortable recommitting themselves for any length of time. If the person or company is not willing to put the partnership in writing, it may be time for you to formalize a succession plan so you are sure that this person’s place will always be filled. You certainly don’t want to rush the person out the door, but if he or she isn’t willing to restate his or her commitment, you may be best served consulting a divorce lawyer.


  • Results – Regularly reflect and articulate clearly how far you have come. Share information like graduation and post-secondary matriculation rates. Track all students’ progress and stay in touch with alumni. They are the best representatives of all the hard work that has been done.

So whether you are celebrating your golden anniversary or just trying to sustain engagement of your school partners, never forget the 5 R’s. Show that you are committed, willing to switch things up a bit and also able to acknowledge your partners’ contributions. This will go a long way in keeping the spark alive and your passions vibrant!

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