Putting the Pieces Together: Comprehensive School-Linked Strategies for Children and Families

Chapter 3
Finding and Developing Resources

Comprehensive school-linked partnerships face a challenge in finding and developing stable resources to support and sustain their efforts. "Resources" in this guidebook refer to funding, in-kind contributions, and human resources such as program staff, parents, and community members.

Funding from any single source is usually too unpredictable and insufficient to sustain long-term, capacity-building strategies. As a result, comprehensive partnerships often combine multiple funding sources and human resources to meet the priorities of families and children in their community. The Family Center described below (a composite of several actual programs) illustrates the variety and complexity of resources that together create balanced and comprehensive strategies.

The Family Center is located in several rooms of a community center next door to an elementary school. The center draws resources from many partners:

How Can Partners Find and Develop Financial Resources for School-Linked Comprehensive Strategies?


In most successful comprehensive
school-linked partnerships, all
members contribute resources
according to their ability to
participate, and no partner can
dominate the efforts simply by
contributing more than others.

Because comprehensive strategies include activities that schools do not typically fund, collaborative partners must look beyond traditional school funding sources to find and develop financial support. Such support can come in the form of cash grants, commitment of staff time, or in-kind donations of facilities, equipment, supplies, and services. Potential sources include partner agencies; local, state, and federal government programs; private organizations; and businesses, corporations, and foundations. In most successful comprehensive school-linked partnerships, all members--individuals as well as agencies--contribute resources according to their ability to participate, and no partner can dominate the effort simply by contributing more than others.

During the planning process for the school-linked strategies, your partnership should examine all possibilities for financial support, including in-kind contributions from all partner agencies (see Chapter 2). It is often easier for an organization to provide the services of a staff member or to loan equipment than to contribute cash from its operating budget.

Successful programs cast a wide net to involve as many individuals and groups as possible in providing resources. Multisource funding raises several important issues that can affect your collaborative partnership:

How Can Partnerships Use Financial Resources Effectively?

While some types of funding may be relatively stable over several years, most public agencies undergo yearly changes in funding. Experienced program leaders say that "hard" money--funds that can be relied on every year--has virtually disappeared in today's funding economy. This situation makes it imperative that partnerships use funds effectively.


Short-term funding is best used for
one time expenditures, such as
building a play area for small
children, developing an emergency
fund for families, or providing
professional development for staff.

Most partnerships attract a mixture of short-term and long-term resources, and these should be used for different purposes. Short-term "special" funding from grants, gifts, and corporate contributions cannot be expected to support core program expenses--salaries, utilities, and facilities. This type of funding is best used for onetime expenditures, such as equipping a play area for small children, developing an emergency fund for families, or providing professional development for staff. Program operators and financial contributors sometimes overestimate the pace of change; try not to promise major changes with short-term funding.

If your partnership can demonstrate that it uses limited funds efficiently and productively, you may be able to encourage funders to increase their financial contributions or supplement them by contributing staff time or other resources. One approach is to bring potential funders into the partnership. Many private-sector organizations--local United Ways, chambers of commerce, and corporate philanthropies--contribute actively and creatively when they are "at the table" of the collaborative partnership, involved in planning and setting its goals. Through direct participation, these groups also become knowledgeable about the comprehensive effort and the kinds of resources it needs. Most are more inclined to support a partnership if they are regarded as sources of time, talent, and energy rather than only as sources of financial support.

How Can Partnerships Use Human Resources Effectively?

Successful partnerships depend on individuals of all types: parents who contribute their understanding of conditions in the community as well as skills in leadership, organization, communication, and mechanical or technical matters; program staff who take on new roles and responsibilities in school-linked programs; agency representatives and coordinators who manage assets and resources creatively; and partnership leaders who advocate for changing organizations' cultures to better serve children, families, and communities.

Key to a partnership's success is its ability to (1) build a core of committed staff, (2) ensure that staff work well with each other to support families and children, (3) recognize and use informal community resources, especially those that families can provide, and (4) support and sustain staff, volunteers, and interns in their work with children and families.

Developing a Core Staff
Every successful school-linked effort relies on staff who support the goals and philosophy of the partnership and can translate that support into sustained action. A balanced staff that reflects the diversity of the community is essential. But it isn't always easy to develop an effective staff--partly because of the very nature of comprehensive strategies. Diverse, inclusive partnerships bring together individuals from vastly different organizations and cultures and ask them to take on new roles in a new environment. Successful partnerships use the following approaches to ease this process:

In order to work well with children and families, staff must first work well with each other. A sense of inclusiveness among school and agency staff is essential, especially if they are working together on school campuses. Many partner organizations have strong cultures--systems of beliefs and practices--that include special staff roles, schedules, and communication styles. School staff may be unable to participate in partnership activities scheduled during school holidays or summer sessions; teachers' union rules may also dictate some limits on roles for school staff. Community-based organizations and nonprofit groups also have distinct cultures, and some may prefer to conduct only activities they have been successful with in the past.

Some comprehensive partnerships create broad-based teams to guide staffing decisions. For example, a family education center near Chicago established a 24-member team of teachers, parents, agency and community representatives, and health care practitioners to interview potential principals. The team created a job description, listed characteristics of the ideal candidate, compiled interview questions, and agreed on a decisionmaking process. Each team member participated in interviewing each job candidate and made recommendations on hiring.

Recognizing and Using Informal Community Resources
Remember that all partners, including--and especially--parents, have something to give to comprehensive strategies. By locating and asking for informal contributions from unexpected sources, your partnership will have opportunities to expand its base in the community.

For example, one school-linked partnership promotes a philosophy of exchanging resources. When parents use services, they indicate what they can contribute in return; this may be time spent tutoring another child, or painting a wall. This approach builds self-esteem among participants and enables the partnership to capitalize on all of the community's assets.

Supporting and Sustaining Volunteer Staff and Trainees
Volunteers, interns, and trainees can provide valuable support to program staff and, when they come from the community, can broaden community support for comprehensive strategies. Many school-linked partnerships use community volunteers: high school students involved in "learning by doing" programs, parents, members of the religious community, retired residents, and other interested individuals. Your partnership also may be able to collaborate with local universities to provide valuable training opportunities for students in the health, counseling, education, and social work fields.


Volunteers, interns, and trainees can
provide valuable support to program
staff and broaden community
involvement in the program.

Such experiences benefit both the partnership and the participants. Student interns and trainees gain experience and first-hand knowledge that cannot be duplicated in the classroom. Volunteers get a chance to use their skills in a way that benefits their community; they often become champions of the partnerships and attract additional community support.

Experienced school-linked programs offer the following advice for supporting and sustaining volunteer staff and trainees:

How Can a Variety of Resources Be Brought Together to Create "Seamless" Strategies?

Successful comprehensive school-linked partnerships have found that a basic, shared understanding about how resources will be managed can smooth the flow of operations considerably. For example:

Agree that every partner agency will contribute resources. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the programs that are the most successful are those in which all partners commit resources, whether in the form of financial support, staff resources, or in-kind services and supplies. This commitment is made with the understanding that partner agencies are only asked to contribute within their capacity and that every contribution is important.

Designate a fiscal agent. It is preferable to have one organization manage and organize resources for the partnership. This fiscal agent may be one of the partner organizations, such as the school or school district; an existing nonprofit, such as the United Way or another community-based organization; or a new community organization established for this purpose.

Seek out resources to support the partnership's action plan. Partnerships are sometimes tempted to apply for all available funding, an approach which may actually pull them off track. To avoid the trap of searching indiscriminately for available grants, your partnership should develop an action plan that spells out staffing and funding needs, and then look for resources to support that plan. Equipped with a sound plan, partnerships can promote their vision to potential funders and define the kinds of support they need.

Develop a single line-item budget that shows all of the partnership's resources and a timeline for funding. Managing multiple funding sources is much easier with a budget that includes the many sources of income. A timeline for funding will help partners monitor short-term funding sources and changes in funding.

Match resources, goals, and needs carefully. To ensure stable funding for the comprehensive strategies and uninterrupted programs for families, your partnership must use resources as effectively as possible. For example, it is not wise to cover core services with short-term funding. Similarly, you may be tempted to hire several new staff when funds become available, but if the same money will not be available next year, a better option might be to use it, for example, to increase the hours of existing staff, to improve program infrastructure, or to provide more learning opportunities.

Learning Opportunities

Learning about community resources involves deepening the understanding of all partners and building trust so they will share knowledge that often is not public. For example, the partnership may want to know:

Partners often learn about resources by holding small meetings to gather information, which they then share with the entire partnership to create a complete picture of available resources. Try to involve a variety of stakeholders in each meeting so you build a shared knowledge base among partners.

Learning Opportunities for Staff
The new roles, responsibilities, and relationships required by comprehensive strategies make learning opportunities for front-line staff especially important. These opportunities also provide a forum for communication between service systems. Supervisors and staff at a comprehensive program in Hillsborough County, Florida suggest the following approaches:

Summary

Building support for comprehensive school-linked strategies requires pooling resources from many sources and using them flexibly to address the conditions of children and families in new, holistic ways. When funding comes from a variety of sources, traditional program boundaries blur. The approaches outlined in this chapter help partnerships develop and weave together human and financial resources to support comprehensive strategies.

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