Through a co-sponsorship in student activities programming, two or more groups or organizations can agree to jointly participate in producing a program. (ALWAYS complete a co-sponsorship agreement.)
When two organizations with differing but complementary constituencies, strengths, and areas of expertise join forces, the program they produce has the potential to benefit from the resulting symbiosis.
Before leaping into a co-sponsorship agreement, though, your organization should consider the following six factors identified by Kintigh and Beifus (1992):
- Does the intended program mesh with your student group's educational mission?
- Does it support the educational mission of the school and its related service groups?
- Does your student organization and the intended co-sponsor(s) have adequate volunteers to commit to this project/event?
- What kind of allowances will be made for the training of volunteers not familiar with campus event programming?
- Does the intended event conflict with any important events on the academic calendar?
- Are there adequate funds available to implement the program? Which group will pay for what? How will payment or reimbursement be made?
If after considering these factors, your student group feels a co-sponsorship is a valid option, you will next need to decide what type of co-sponsorship will best meet your needs and best serve the event. The three most common types of co-sponsorships are financial, personnel, and informational.
This is the most common form of partnership and it involves the pooling of financial resources. This is one way your student group can produce an event that would otherwise be financially infeasible. It is also one way to spread the financial costs of hosting an important event that directly supports your group's mission and goals. When planning a financial co-sponsorship, it's important to keep one particular caution in mind: the money for the artist's fee must be in one or both of the organizations' account(s) prior to the event because payment of the artist is traditionally made immediately following the event.
A student group may join with another student group because its members have more experience in producing the type of event under consideration. For any organization, asking another to share personnel may save preparation time and prevent the students involved from neglecting classes or work because an event requires involvement from planning to execution.
The third type of co-sponsorship involves one organization sharing information with one or more other campus organizations. Generally speaking, the organization with the specialized knowledge would offer advice to the group organizing an event.
This advice could be offered in several different forms:
- as peer counseling from primary student organization members;
- by offering to share informational resources for example, lending periodicals such as Billboard, Pollstar, Rolling Stone, or Campus Activities Programming magazine; and
- maintaining a library of resources, which could include copies of sample contracts, contract riders, program planning checklists and budget planning forms, to list a few possibilities.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Co-Sponsorships
Co-sponsorships bring their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages. Weighing the potential benefits against potential pitfalls will help your registered student organization establish a set of co-sponsorship policies which will provide a set of guidelines for structuring future co-sponsorship relationships.
Advantages of Co-Sponsorship
Enhanced Diversity in Programs
Co-sponsorships can bring diverse segments of the campus community together to produce successful multicultural programming events. By involving organizations that represent special campus populations, a registered student organization with a 'mainstream' image can reach out to students who have been under-represented in attendance at other student group functions. For example, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and your student group could co-sponsor an event, or a series of events, over the course of a semester. Often a co-sponsorship like this can lead to greater student group diversity if student programmers take advantage of the built-in recruitment opportunities these co-sponsorships provide.
Co-sponsorships offer numerous student development opportunities to both organizations. Non-programming group members acquire knowledge about program planning, budgeting, contract implementation, and event evaluation, while promoting and sponsoring events related to their own interests. Other student development benefits include gaining leadership experience in the areas of goal-setting, delegating responsibilities, teamwork and motivation, and negotiating. In addition, coming into contact with people from different cultures and backgrounds helps prepare students for working in a multicultural society after college.
Choosing the Right Program
Due to the differing goals and objectives each group brings to the co-sponsorship, it may be difficult to reach consensus on the selection of the program. Careful consideration needs to be given on both sides to the intended benefits for each group's individual constituency.
Potential for Conflict
An imbalance of power between two organizations can occur in three main areas: power/money, experience, or politics. Power or money imbalances can lead to one group feeling entitled to dominate another in terms of decision-making and delegating responsibilities. The other organization can respond by fighting with the dominant group over every detail, or it may take a submissive role, causing the uninvolved members to miss out on the opportunity to learn from valuable programming experiences. By arriving at a clear understanding of which decisions are to be made by whom, each group can minimize the likelihood that this type of conflict will compromise the quality of the event. Differences in levels of experience can also lead to a situation in which the board with more experience in program planning feels resentful at having to train the other group's members. Patience on the part of the more experienced group is imperative if this co-sponsorship arrangement is to produce positive student development experiences. A political imbalance can result from conflict generated when one group's leaders insist the other yield control over the direction of the program. To avoid this situation, both groups must be willing to negotiate and compromise and remain focused on the primary objective of producing the program.
To alleviate the possibility that these disadvantages will threaten the production of your co-sponsored program, all parties should establish their own co-sponsorship policies. These policies will guide their decision-making and negotiation process with the other group and should help to minimize the chances of the event becoming "derailed."