Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

How to Develop and Manage Partner Relationships

Partnerships for Historic Preservation Advocacy, Part 1 of 2

How to Develop an Advocacy Partnership | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on developing and managing partnerships for historic preservation advocacy. Part 2 discusses How to Manage the Challenges of Partner Relationships.

Your historic preservation advocacy group may be able to maximize its impact on your community by partnering with another group. A partnership is a collaboration between two or more groups to support a larger goal than a single group could accomplish on its own. Although partnerships take some time and effort, they offer the abililty to expand talent, expertise, and community support.

Developing Partnerships

Partnerships typically involve two or more organizations with different but complementary perspectives. Here are two examples of historic preservation partnerships:

  • A partnership between a historical society and a high school teacher can combine the archival and human resources of the historical society with the teacher's expertise. The students will add their own analysis, energy, and creativity to produce unique class work.
  • A partnership between a historical society and a green building organization could create programs that spotlight how historic preservation offers an environmentally friendly approach to development.

Types of Preservation Partners

Your community may offer any number of potential partnering organizations. Your preservation group should think creatively about what groups could be potential partners. Here is a list of the types of groups you may consider:

  • Local historical society
  • Local historic preservation commission
  • Conservation and natural resource groups
  • Artists and arts organization
  • Universities and colleges
  • Student service-learning projects

For example, your group could partner with the local historical society to develop a walking tour of your community's historic buildings. Or you might partner with your community's historic preservation commission to research and write a landmark designation.

Conservation groups can make good partners because natural and historic resources often overlap. Trails, corridors, parks, and other natural features are all important elements of Wisconsin's rich cultural landscape. In addition, the same Congressional committees that govern parks and environmental policy oversee our federal preservation laws. Federal and state guidelines for environmental review of government-funded development projects require an evaluation of historic impacts.

Managing Partner Relations

Once you find a partner, you'll want to get the relationship off to a good start. Here are a few tips for managing your group's partnering relationships:

  • Assign a single person to be in charge of managing the partnering relationship. The relationship manager should report back to the group regularly. If the manager is your executive director or other staff member, this person should report to the board chair. If this person is a board member, he or she should report to the chair and/or whatever committee is overseeing the partnership.
  • Make your partnership public. Your group should make sure your members know about your partnership and strive to help them feel good about the partnership. Publicizing your partnership helps maintain the relationship by creating public accountability. If the relationship is going well, the publicity can also help you leverage the relationship into a larger network of partners.
  • Evaluate the trajectory of the partnering relationship. Consider whether the partnership has long-term potential or whether the relationship is stagnating. Your group should recognize that any partnership will have some bumps, but you should also have plans in place to change course or cancel your partnership if the relationship is not working. You should see early evidence of success from the partnership. And this success should be understood and appreciated by all of the partners.
  • Analyze the partnership's effect on your organizational development. Your partnerships should enhance your organizational development. Your group should be learning new things regularly throughout your relationship with your partners, whether they are other nonprofit organizations or for-profit businesses. Regularly analyze the quality and effectiveness of your partnerships. Include an analysis of any unanticipated, positive exposure for your group, and consider how the partnership encourages new ideas and ways of thinking about your group.

Learn More

Find more how-to articles about historic preservation advocacy.