Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “thank you.”
Even though your partners aren’t working with your program just to get a pat on the back, recognizing and thanking them still has a huge influence on how they think about the experience. If you want to keep partners engaged and coming back again and again, you should make sure they know how much you value their contribution.
There are several ways to recognize your partners, many of which cost nothing:
- A personal thank you letter, not a blanket form letter, should be the very first thing you do to thank your donors. This could come from the lead teacher, the principal, or from an advisory board member. Consider having students write letters as well, detailing the impact the partnership has had on their lives.
- Plaques are a standard recognition tool. This could be a plaque sent to the partner to display at their place of business, or it could be a plaque displayed at the school. Consider creating a “Partners Wall” that lists all partners, perhaps at different levels such as platinum, gold, and silver. You could also do a variation on the plaque idea by instead ordering trophies that line up with the theme of the partnership.
- Take a photograph of the partnership in action; for example, photograph a volunteer or partner working with a student and send a framed copy of the photo to your partner.
- Provide a written update about the program’s outcomes.
- Recognize your partner at a public event. This could be a school event, like a school-wide assembly or a school board meeting, or it could be at one of your partner’s events.
- Host a reception or a dinner for all your partners. This way, you have a semi-public opportunity to show your thanks, and partners can mingle.
- Try to get press coverage of your partnership. Center your press release around something timely, tying it into current events or around an award won by students participating in the partnership.
- Use your internal communication channels. Post logos, photos, or articles in your school newsletter or on your website.
- Give the donor a memento of their work with you. If they’re working with carpentry students, have the students build something for their office and surprise them with it. If they’re working with a robotics team, have the team give them an early prototype for display.
- Create a “thank you” video showing the partnership in action, with teachers, students, and volunteers talking about the partnership and what it’s meant to them.
Remember to involve your advisory board wherever possible. Make sure your board is represented at any event, and that it participates in your recognition efforts in some way. Including your partners’ business peers in the recognition process will further increase the value of the effort.
And finally, if you’re looking for inspiration for a letter you can send, see our sample Thank You letter below:
City, State Zip
I’m writing to thank you for the leadership you have shown in establishing our career mentoring program, and your continued support in hosting students through that program.
Because of you and your company, 30 of our students have been able to gain firsthand experience in this industry, meeting and interacting with professionals and seeing for themselves how people work together in the workplace. We can work with them in the classroom to teach the technical skills, but we can’t give them the kind of real-world exposure they need to understand industry expectations, and truly understand what it’s like to work in the industry. Only partners like you can do that. And you’ve made a tremendous difference in the lives of these children and future employees.
We truly appreciate your work with our students and staff, and value your continued input on how we can make this partnership valuable to you and to our students. I look forward to continuing this work with you in the years to come.
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.