By Samantha Reaves, Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee

“For many of our film launches, anniversary celebrations, and community events, our success has stemmed from the combined resources, support, and enthusiasm from partnering organizations.”

Stronger together. Collaboration is key. There’s no “I” in “TEAM.”

Chances are, you’ve heard these before, as well as many other tropes touting the importance of teamwork. There’s a reason for it: organizations who work together effectively achieve better results. In my experience at the Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee, Florida, wearing many hats (sales, resource development, marketing and communications), I have learned that you can almost always find an opportunity for partnership with another organization. For many of our film launches, anniversary celebrations, and community events, our success has stemmed from the combined resources, support, and enthusiasm from partnering organizations.

Identifying Opportunities

As a nonprofit organization, seeking opportunities to promote our programs at little to no cost is key. When approaching a new project, an integral part of planning is looking for potential partners at the local level. When launching Apollo 11: First Steps, for example, we worked with our local bookstore, Midtown Reader. The bookstore helped promote our Lunar Engagement Day, attended the event, sold astronomy and space exploration books and related items, and provided a kids’ activity. Midtown Reader’s participation in the event added value for our customers, helped us achieve higher attendance through cross promotion efforts, and built our relationship for future opportunities to work together.

Impact of Collaboration

One of the biggest (and best) impacts of a collaboration is seeing that collaboration continue to future projects. With Midtown Reader, we have continued to work together when appropriate. After all, with any film that we bring to our IMAX or planetarium theaters, there is likely an assortment of titles on that subject at the bookstore, providing an opportunity for their presence at film launch events. Midtown Reader can also pull a collection to feature at the front of their store to promote our film launch, so we both have an onsite promotional space for the event or program. We have also hosted a book signing event in collaboration with the bookstore—we cross-promoted Brad Meltzer’s I Am Neil Armstrong signing event (pictured here), bringing together multiple audiences and resulting in a sold-out event.

Partnerships That Last

Even after an established project concludes, there is opportunity to foster an ongoing relationship with your partners. For example, partnerships with Midtown Reader, the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, the Tallahassee Museum, and others have served to establish a relationship and open communication with the Challenger Learning Center staff. Organizations are more likely to support their partners on social media, reach out regarding new opportunities, ask for sponsorship support, or simply brainstorm ideas. In fact, Midtown Reader has reached out to us to co-host a virtual event with astronaut Colonel Terry Virts to promote his new book, How to Astronaut: Everything You Need to Know Before Leaving Earth in September. This established relationship strengthens the community and builds a network of local partners who are there to support your organization—and the best part, this support goes both ways.

“Post-COVID” Opportunities

We have all been a part of conversations lately surrounding COVID-19, and the terms “post-COVID” and “new normal” are used quite a bit. Frankly, none of us know if, when, and what a “post-COVID” world will look like, and it will likely be a while until we find out. As our theaters reopen to the public, there is one thing I do know—partnerships and collaborations will be more important than ever. They lend themselves to little-to-no-cost promotions, stronger and lasting relationships with other local businesses, and the added benefit of new customers visiting our institutions. With many theaters experiencing a spending freeze or drastically reduced budget, the need for creative strategy and support from partners is greater than ever.

Seek opportunities, identify the potential positive impacts, and build powerful partnerships that last.