The Partnership Pyramid (with downloadable!)

I’ve noticed that when we talk about the individuals and organizations that support CTE, we tend to call everybody a “partner.” The person that donates to a scholarship fund is a partner. The professional who comes in once as a guest speaker is a partner. The business that provides indispensable advocacy, funding, and internship slots is a partner. There’s no differentiation; everyone is regarded as the same.

If you’re interested in recognizing your best supporters while thinking about ways of deepening relationships with all the organizations you work with, it might be helpful to consider a more fine-grained approach. I would suggest coming up with a method for categorizing partners based on their level of commitment. It might be based on the type of support, the dollar value, or some other criteria, but if you can differentiate the levels of support you’re receiving, you can start to think about moving your partners into ever-higher categories.

Your model could be as simple as Diamond, Platinum, Gold, and Silver level; you can also decide whether to make it a public system (so your higher-level partners received greater recognition) or keep it as an internal ranking to help in partner management.

The attached article and worksheet is adapted from the Employer Engagement Toolkit; it provides a particular set of criteria to decide at which levels your partners reside. But keep in mind that it’s just one model; come up with something that works for you and your program. Whatever you choose, working through this exercise will give you an opportunity to strengthen your efforts and provide more and more opportunities for students.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) ( 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.


Download Resource