Houston (April 21, 2004) -- When it comes to building relationships, go straight to community organizations, says Karen Love, director of business development with the Houston-based firm PKF Texas

She recommends that firms go to chambers of commerce, city economic development groups, industry growth groups, universities and some governmental agencies, among others.

Benefits a firm may see from aligning with a strong community partner include:

-- Revitalization of your "center of influence." By aligning with a community partner that shares your firm's philosophies, says Love, "you gain the momentum attached to the organization's reputation. In essence, it is like a personal referral. You've improved credibility by virtue of your association."

-- Enhancement of your community involvement image. The message is clear in a community-partnering campaign, says Love: "You are a firm dedicated to your community, and to the companies serving that marketplace. The more you get involved, the more you strengthen this image."

--  Gaining a safe infrastructure to build junior team members' business-development skills. Community organizations are usually divided into different groups or committees. These committees and subcommittees offer a platform for junior members of your firm to get involved and test their business-development skills, working with people they know and beginning to develop relationships with their peers.

Most organizations have a variety of ways firms can support or sponsor activities, Love notes. "You can make the most of a relationship with a community partner either formally or informally," she adds. "You may elect to become an annual sponsor or partner directly with the organization. Some benefits associated with this type of arrangement include your firm's name and logo appearing on all organizational literature, Web site and any other promotional material."

The direct cost of this type of relationship can be hefty. In some instances, an annual sponsorship may cost as much as $50,000 a year, while event sponsorships can run from $2,500 to $25,000, depending on the size and number of attendees.

-- Jeff Stimpson


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