The Care and Feeding of Partnerships

In 2008, OATS came close to financial catastrophe.  An unexpected shortfall in the New York City budget led to the elimination of a program that provided almost half of our annual budget. 

We were facing staff layoffs, site closings, cancelled programs—and then we got a call from the executive director at one of our nonprofit partners, a site where OATS had been teaching classes for several years.

We accepted, sheepishly, and their support meant that several OATS trainers were able to keep their jobs and we managed to keep our programs going until more sustainable funding was secured.  It’s partnerships like these—vital long-term relationships that both deliver great outcomes and make sure we look out for each other—that inspire us at OATS.

Every program we have delivered since our first day of operation has been a partnership.  We have taught at over 200 locations all over America, worked with libraries, schools, senior centers, advocacy campaigns, government agencies, corporations, and foundations, and have prided ourselves on building long-term connections wherever we go.  Partnerships are so important to OATS that we secured funding from the Consumer Technology Association Foundation to build a dedicated “Partner Portal” to make sure organizations all over the world can access OATS up-to-date curriculum, technical support, digital content, and organizational resources in real-time and usable formats.

We believe in the power of collaboration and the importance of sustaining lasting relationships. Here are a few principles that guide our collaborations.

Value every partner organization for their unique expertise—content, culture, history, policy, programs, geography, networks, knowledge—the list is endless.

Learn what drives partner organization success—and reinforce it wherever possible.

Get to know the people.  Relationships are essential in the nonprofit sector for building trust.

Don’t skimp on resources.  Strong partnerships take effort, and staff, and money.  Make sure to build strong financial and program models to feed successful collaborations.

At OATS we pride ourselves on being great partners.  We work every day to deliver value and quality through collaborative relationships with organizations that range from a two-person operation run out of a housing project in West Harlem to international corporations with revenues over a billion dollars.  

At the end of the day, all good work is worth doing, and doing great work together with others makes us all stronger and more successful.