Before a partnership, look at responsibility and cost

To stay on budget, map out duties in advance

Mary Szczepanik, MS, BSN, RN, manager of cancer education, support, and outreach at OhioHealth Cancer Services in Columbus, provides services to a large geographical area. Therefore, as a manager, she must decide how her staff of six can best use their time.

That’s why when working on a community outreach project, staff use a program-planning guide. It takes staff through the various steps of determining how the department might participate in a project in partnership with other organizations and remain within the budget.

Early in the partnership, OhioHealth Cancer Services puts in writing what it will be responsible for in labor, materials, and funding so its responsibility in the partnership is clear. The guide first establishes a budget by taking planners through lined items the department will be responsible for such as minor equipment, office supplies, printing and binding, patient education materials, parking, travel and mileage, catered meals, and other purchased services.

It also takes planners through areas of funding such as cancer administration, cancer education, general oncology fund, other foundation funds, community relations, corporate development, and drug company donations.

Other items on the guide list the tasks required to meet the obligations of the agreement, including:

  • Food: Select, order, pick-up, and delivery, etc.
  • Site: Room request, setup request, access to site confirmed, signage
  • Speakers: Select, confirm, travel arrangements, lodging, communication
  • Transportation: Pick-up of participants, pre- and post-event confirmed
  • Vendors/displays: Select, confirm, provide guidelines for size, electrical outlets, audiovisual requirements, fees
  • Marketing: Meet with corporate development, marketing budget and plan confirmed, select and purchase promotional materials
  • Registration: Setup, supplies, adequate staffing
  • Audiovisual: Determine needs of registration, speakers, meals, displays, confirm with media services department
  • Program materials: Select, purchase, prepare for delivery to site, track cost

"What we have learned by working with a lot of community groups is that they are extremely well intentioned and very dedicated, but they don’t have experience in planning.

"They usually appreciate the partner coming in to them from a hospital perspective having that ability," says Szczepanik.

The first time she meets with a group, she simply exchanges ideas with them. At the second meeting, she brings pencil and paper to take notes and analyze whether a partnership is feasible or not.

In spite of the planning guide, the first year partnering with another organization takes a lot of work because you are doing lots of coaching, and there is a lot of guesswork involved in the planning. The second year is better because all the glitches have been corrected. Every year, the relationship gets better, she says.

The relationship OhioHealth Cancer Services has with the African-American cancer support group has grown slowly over the years and is a good example of building relationships, says Szczepanik. It began with OhioHealth providing resources for them. They recently were able to host a bone marrow drive together where the support group helped publicize the event to the target audience. The Red Cross joined them along with a community center where the drive was held.

It’s good to build on partnerships, Szczepanik says. "You want to start small with something the group is already doing. Sometimes you just give them money," she says.