Step 1 - Assess Situational Needs
Define what is and what isn't a partnership.
There are a lot of misconceptions about partnerships. Here are some pitfalls you can avoid by knowing what is and what isn't a partnership:
A partnership IS:
- A written agreement between the parties. This can be in the form of a cooperating association agreement, challenge partnership agreement, MOU/MOA, Economy Act agreement, cooperative agreement, volunteer agreement, or a contributions plan.
- Mutual interest in, mutual benefits from, or mutually desired goals of a common objective related to the mission of the agency.
- Builds consensus and broad-based community support.
- Appropriate legal authority.
- Voluntary participation.
- Consistent with agency plans, policies, and priorities.
- Leverages resources to meet challenges and improve opportunities
- A realistic timeframe with sufficient lead time to acquire funding, materials, and necessary approvals.
A partnership is NOT:
- Conflict of interest, appearance of conflict of interest, or preferential treatment of one entity over another.
- Endorsement of commercial products, services, or entities.
- Circumvention of applicable legal requirements in areas such as procurement, personnel, or labor laws; printing, publishing, or audiovisual production; and issuance of special use permits.
- Marketing or promotion of partners in any way, except for recognition of the contribution.
Assess the skills and assets of the partnership
Partnerships are not a one-way street. A partnership means you and your partner have joint interests and associations. How do you determine what skills and assets you and your potential partner bring to the table? Ask yourselves these questions:
- Are mutual needs identified?
- Are each other's needs compatible with organizational missions?
- Does the potential partner's experience match your needs?
- Does everyone understand the reasons for and goals of the partnership?
- Is there a visible outcome?
- Are all affected stakeholders identified?
- Have mutual benefits been identified?
- Do you have the legal authority to enter into the partnership?
- Do you have the resources to fulfill your end of the partnership?
- Does the partnership promote a positive image for the agency i.e. does it benefit visitors and the local community, does it stimulate the local and regional economy, does it protect and enhance our natural resources?
- Do the partner's assets and liabilities in terms of financial resources, organizational capacity, public image, and constituency characteristics meet your needs?
Market/cultivate potential partners
More than ever; the American public consistently supports local, state, and federal park systems. Partnerships cultivate a sense of community and belonging through shared goals for improved quality of life. To create a successful marketing climate for the right partners, be prepared to:
- Illustrate that lasting success is as important as need
- Offer leadership, commitment and continuity
- Have a well thought out, thorough plan for all partnership possibilities
- Market partnerships as standard operating procedure, not stop gap measures
- Demonstrate passion, patience, persistence
- Tailor your strategy at the local level
- Maximize the potential of your partnerships
Define legal and ethical boundaries
Laws, regulations and policies define the parameters of what we can do as public officials with partnerships. Here is a brief primer of do's and don'ts:
What we can do:
- We can acknowledge the partnership and the contributions of the partner
- We can say that a given trailhead is maintained under a voluntary agreement by employees of XYZ Equipment Company in partnership with the Corps.
- We can say that this trail has been reconstructed with contributions donated by XYZ Equipment Company, in partnership with the Corps.
- The logo of a partner may appear in conjunction with a credit line. The Corps Communication Mark may also appear on jointly produced products or interpretive materials.
What we CANNOT do:
- The Corps cannot promote any local community partner or business for its contributions to a given project.
- We cannot say that the Corps promotes XYZ Equipment Company for its volunteer assistance in maintaining a given trailhead.
- We cannot say that the Corps recommends XYZ because they contributed to the reconstruction of this trail.
- We cannot use advertising or marketing slogans/taglines in conjunction with a credit line or the Corps Communication Mark
Personal Ethics and Conflict of Interest
Conflict of interest rules prohibit an employee from seeking or receiving anything of value in return for official acts that may be performed by that employee as a public official. Conflict of interest prohibitions are implemented through regulatory restrictions and criminal statutes to protect employees from the appearance of conflict of interest or impropriety. Because employees may work closely with partners over a long period, there is a real risk that the close relationship could be construed as conflict of interest.
What we can do:
- Employees can participate, with agency authorization, as Federal officials in business relationships and in organizations, including those in which the employee is an active member.
- Employees must represent the mission of the agency when they participate as Federal officials with private entities in developing public-private partnerships.
- Employees can use Federal Government facilities or work on various partnership issues related to the Corps activities covered by the agreement between the agency and the partner.
- Employees can assist a community in writing a grant proposal, as long as they are not part of the grant review or decision process.
- Employees may accept meals and unsolicited gifts having an aggregate market value of $20 or less per occasion, provided that the aggregate market value of individual gifts received from any one person under the authority of 5 CFR 2635.204 does not exceed $50 in a calendar year.
What we CANNOT do:
- Employees are prohibited from representing the partner during development of the partnership.
- Employees cannot participate directly or indirectly in any decisions with a partner when the employee has a financial interest in the partner's business.
- Employees cannot receive compensation, other than from the Government, for performing Federal duties.
- Employees cannot participate in any decision for the partner or made by the partner regarding the partner's relationship with the Corps.
Create a successful culture
Successful partnerships don't just happen. They are like a marriage. They need open communication, clear understanding, mutual benefits, and constant support. A successful culture will:
- Establish clear shared responsibilities and shared benefits
- Offer real incentives
- Use resources effectively and efficiently
- Keep legal documents simple
- Instill a sense of ownership for the land/resource involved
- Emphasize the importance and rewards of partnerships
- Recognize that partners seek to build good will and support good work
- Establish a structure of accountability
- Identify risks and ways to mitigate them
- Use collaboration
- Be flexible and open to all ideas
Go To Step 2: What Kind of Partnership is Right for You?
Challenge Partnerships Program
Memoranda of Understanding/Agreement (MOU/MOA)
Handshake Partnerships Program
Economy Act Agreements
Cooperating Associations Program
Partnership Agreement Decision Tree
Policy & Procedures
Partnerships in OMBIL
Grants/Alternative Funding Sources
News / Current Issues
Partnership Advisory Committee
Good Enough to Share
Division & District POCs
Corps Photo Album for Partnerships
Health/Medical Community Partnerships
Water Safety Partnerships
Special Events with Partners
Partnership and Volunteer Awards
Partnership Success Stories
Partnering with the Corps video
Partnership Outreach Sheet
Partnership/Volunteer Program Newsletter
Corps Lakes Gateway Partnerships Webpage