John Veverka & Associates

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Interpretive Consultants

Provoke, Relate, Reveal and more!

For the Cutting edge in Heritage Interpretation

Interpretive Planning, Training, Evaluation and more!

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5010 Delray Dr. Lansing, Michigan 48910

(517) 899-4548 (we've gone mobile)

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From interpretive planning for castles in Wales for the National Trust and bird sanctuaries in Michigan for the Kellogg Biological Station, to interpretive training in Alabama for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and museum exhibit evaluation in Wisconsin - (bottom row) and critiquing ancient temples interpretation on Malta for Malta Heritage, prehistoric archaeological site interpretation in Utah for Nine Mile Canyon/BLM, and docent/interpretive staff training for the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, we do that - and more!

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Developing Successful Partnerships –

Planning Guidelines for

Heritage Tourism and Interpretive Sites, Facilities

And Organizations



John A. Veverka


Why Do I Need Partners?

Developing partnerships for organizations/agencies in both the private and public sectors have been a management trend for the past several years. Particularly in times of tight budgets but growing demands for services, agencies have looked more and more to cost sharing and work sharing with groups and organizations. What can partnerships to for you?

bulletProvide cost sharing for construction projects, exhibit projects, marketing services, staff training and development, and more.
bulletProvide "credibility" for some projects by having the right "names" associated with them.
bulletProvide expertise that may not be available "in house".
bulletCut costs in marketing and advertising sites or attractions.
bulletHelp in grant writing or other revenue generation.
bulletHelp you accomplish your agency or attraction mission more cost effectively.

These are just a few of the benefits of partnerships. But creating a "successful" partnership is not as easy as it might seem and there are pit falls if the partnership doesn’t work out.

Here are some things to consider in developing and maintaining successful partnerships.


Ten Guiding Rules for Making Partnerships Work:

  1. All partners must be equal. While the word "partnership" implies this, I have seen partnerships where one partner is "more equal" than the other in decision making, management, or other issues. This can easily cause friction and the partnership to break up.
  2. Benefits to each partner should be equal. All partnerships are based on the fact that each partner is looking to gain some BENEFITS from the partnership.  They may be benefits in marketing or advertising their site or resources, benefits in keeping their operation costs down, or other related benefits.  If one partner seems to benefit more than the other, but the real "costs" o the partnership are equal, some friction can develop.
  3. Partners should have some common or shared mission or organizational purpose. If all partners are after the same end (protecting historical sites, preserving the environment, wanting visitors to value the shared resource, promoting regional tourism, etc.), there is a greater chance of the partnership being successful.
  4. All partnerships should have a written "Letter of Agreement" between the partners to spell out exactly the roles, duties, financial commitments, time frame commitments, management responsibilities, etc. for the partnership. This speaks for itself. All partnership agreements should be worked out clearly and in writing.
  5. Choose your partners carefully – You Are Known by the Company you Keep. Will this partnership help or possibly hurt your agency or organization image. For example, if you are an environmental organization and have a partnership with an Oil Company – what will people think?
  6. Talk to each other often. Some types of partnerships succeed or fail because of lack of communications between the partners. Depending on the kind of partnership you have, meet often to discuss common goals, strategies, or problems.
  7. If you have a "long term" partnership agreement (covering several years), have a yearly "updating" meeting to make any needed partnership adjustments. The key here is that tourists, agency administrators, budgets, everything – can change over time. Have flexibility built into your partnerships to make adjustments as needed.
  8. Have a common or shared "look". While you want to maintain your agency or organization identity, visitors are not really interested in who all the partners are. They do not want a quilt work of exhibit design looks, publication mis-matches, or other visually confusing presentations. Agree on a common or shared look for a "seamless" presentation of a common or shared story.

  10. Have clear deadlines or work plan timelines. If your partnership involves developing sites, attractions, exhibits, marketing materials, or other such joint projects, make sure that all partners can keep to shared work responsibility deadlines and project time tables. For example, if you are developing outdoor exhibit panels,
  11. and your designer needs graphic material from your "partner" by a certain deadline, make sure that the partner can meet these kinds of deadlines.

  12. Try to LIKE your partner. If you don’t really get along with a potential partner, you will probably have problems along the way with the potential partnership. Some partnerships fail simply because the partners may have personalities that don’t work well together. Successful partnerships take work!


There are different kinds of partnerships between different kinds of organizations and agencies and how partnerships might work between then vary greatly. From government agencies to commercial tourism attractions, to commercial service providers, to non-profit organizations – partnership benefits and arrangements will vary a lot. The table on the following page gives a few examples (Ed. note - due to html formatting this table could not be included in this web version of the article.)

  Planning for Partnerships

If you think that your organization or agency is ready for, or in need of, various kinds of partners, here are some steps for planning for your partnership. I recommend that you think through these questions before selecting or approaching potential partners.

bulletWhy do we need a partner?
bulletHow will a partner benefits us?
bulletHow will a partnership benefit the partner(s)?
bulletFinancial Benefits
bulletMarketing Benefits
bulletAssociation benefits with our agency or organization.
bulletGain access to a greater number of resources and expertise.
bulletHelp them to accomplish their goals, objectives, or mission.
bulletWhat are the goals and objectives of our proposed partnership (what do we envision accomplishing via the partnership)?
bulletHow will you know if the partnership is "successful"?
bulletHow will you know if/when the partnership is not longer needed?
bulletHow will we administer the partnership?
bulletWho will write the contract or letter of agreement?
bulletWho will be responsible for any fiscal accounting?
bulletWho will be responsible for staff functions?
bulletDo we need a long-term partner(s) or will this be a short-term partnership project.
bulletExactly what do we want our proposed partner(s) to do?
bulletHelp with funding?
bulletHelp with staffing?
bulletHelp with administration of the project.
bulletProvide expertise?
bulletProvide credibility to the project?
bulletProvide "in-kind" services (printing, publications, etc.)?
bulletWho are some potential partners? Make a list of the organizations, companies, attractions, etc. who you think would make a good partner(s) based on the above criteria.
bulletHow will we implement the partnership? What will it take to get things going?
bulletHow will we evaluate the success of the partnership (for short or long term projects or working relationships?

Once you have thought through these questions (and answered them), then you are ready to approach your potential partners about entering into a partnership arrangement with you.


This short paper was designed to help you think through some of the issues and points that can make or break partnerships. In today’s economy, partnerships, especially in the heritage tourism area, make good business sense. But like good business, it should be carefully planned and thought through to help insure success.



John A. Veverka

John Veverka & Associates

PO Box 189

Laingsburg, MI 48848