For Anne Harrison, director of the University of Virginia CCLC centers, keeping her client liaison in the loop with center events is simply how she does business. Every other week she and her client contact have a check-in meeting, sharing ideas and suggestions. Once a month she joins her contact’s team meetings, connecting with leaders from other university facilities and departments.
“It gives me a relationship with all of those departments,” Anne explained. “By reaching out to my client and letting him know about what’s happening at our center, he can connect me with resources.”
As a result of those monthly meetings, Anne knew exactly who to go to when she wanted to give her center’s vegetable garden a little boost. A few phone calls later and she had a group of university students volunteering their time to help out in the garden. When she had an issue with parking at her center, she called up a contact at the university’s facilities department: a contact she’d made through her client liaison.
Anne believes building great relationships doesn’t stop with families. She’s learned that connecting everyone – parents, client, staff – enhances center programs as well. Plus, word of that kind of collaboration spreads. Parents talk about colleagues and professors who visit the center –whether it’s a classmate’s parent who talked about their career during the community theme, or an education professor who piloted an online training course on center teachers.
“Having that relationship with our client means our children and program benefit,” Anne said, remembering the fun students had last summer during the air and space program when an actual astronaut visited: something that wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration she and her client have.
“We have outstanding curriculum,” she said. “How much more fun is it to have a chemistry professor make goop with preschoolers – with her students teaching? The children are thrilled – because they made goop – but the students get to say they taught a polymer lesson to preschoolers.”
Anne’s advice to other directors is to facilitate that relationship with your client: don’t let silence be the norm. Developing that relationship can foster collaborations above and beyond simple things like parking issues and event space.