This paper reports findings from a project that examined the extent and nature of the contribution of rural schools to their communities' development beyond traditional forms of education of young people. Case study communities in five Australian States participated in the project, funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Communities and schools that share the belief that education is the responsibility of the whole community and work together, drawing on skills and knowledge of the community as a whole, experience benefits that extend far beyond producing a well-educated group of young people. The level of maturity of the school community partnership dictates how schools and communities go about developing and sustaining new linkages, or joint projects. Twelve characteristics central to the success of school community partnerships were identified. The characteristics are largely sequential in that later characteristics build on earlier ones. Underscoring these characteristics is the importance of collective learning activities including teamwork and network building, which have been identified elsewhere as key social capital building activities. A generic model of the relationship between the indicators of effective school community partnerships and the level of maturity of those partnerships is forwarded.