By: Marquese Howard, Riverside County DCSS
Partnerships in any industry are vital to the success of the business, and Child Support Services is no different. Partnerships, along with community participation, are key ingredients of any successful campaign. On top of the cost-saving opportunities they present, partnerships can help you reach new audiences and give your event a unique spin.
During Child Support Awareness Month (CSAM), Riverside County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) hosts an annual Open House, inviting customers to visit our offices where they can to discuss their child support case and receive backpacks and other school supplies for their children. In 2017, we welcomed a total of 10 people to the event. This year, we had over 450 people in attendance. along with five local businesses and partner agency booths distributing information about their services. The dramatic increase in attendance from the previous year was a direct reflection of our newly-established community partnerships.
First, we sought sponsors. We reached out to a local credit union and asked them to sponsor our event and school supply giveaway financially by donating funds to help purchase backpacks and school supplies. We then reached out to other local businesses, asking for donations to help with the event. We received dozens of tote bags, crayons, paper, erasers, coloring pencils, and a variety of other school supplies to distribute. Because of our outreach to the local community, we began to receive recognition of our efforts publicly. The Riverside Chamber of Commerce asked us to speak at several of their “business insider” events to promote child support services and inform the community of our event. Local press began inquiring about our Open House, which helped publicize the event online and in print publications. We were scheduled to open Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., and we had customers showing up at 6:15 a.m. waiting to be helped. Over 900 school supply bags were ready to be distributed, and after the event we reached out to a local school district and donated the remaining 400+ school supply bags to local children in need.
Don’t forget – it’s always good to follow up. After the event concluded, we provided a summary of the event to the credit union, school district, and local businesses, thanking the credit union for their financial help and praising the businesses for their donations. Too many entities only appear when they want something, and never go back to say, “thank you.”
The partnerships we established for this one event have evolved into positive relationships between our customers and the businesses in our local area that extend far beyond CSAM. We are now working with a variety of agencies and companies helping both our customers and our community. For example, this upcoming holiday season we are sponsoring foster and homeless students from our local school district, helping provide toys for these children during the holiday season, and working again with local businesses collecting donations for our Adopt-A-Family campaign. In addition we are partnering with the Office on Aging to collect blankets, mittens, toiletries, and other goods to donate to the elderly who may not have the means or transportation to purchase these items on their own. Lastly, the credit union that helped with our CSAM event is interested in sponsoring lunch for our next employer workshop in early 2019.
Getting the right partnerships in place can be the key to your event’s success. Just make sure you strategically begin the partnership process early, as community partnerships may be difficult to create, organize, and sustain but their ability to get things done cements their value as a vital facet of assisting those we serve.