How to set up effective Corporate / Not-for-Profit partnerships PART 2/2

Gone are the days when Corporate / Not-for-Profit partnerships only took the form of a novelty sized cheque exchanging hands. Today partnerships have moved beyond donations and sponsorships to an alignment of interests and resources with huge potential for financial sustainability and increased social impact. When these partnerships works, they rock, but they rarely do…and they really can…

Through our recent work bridging these two sectors we’ve found four effective models and learnt the best ways to set them up. In PART 1 of this blog series we unpacked Traditional Philanthropic and Business/Strategic Value partnerships. Today, we’re looking at the two remaining models in the diagram below, Social Impact and the heroic top right quadrant partnership where business and social value is high, Strategic (Shared Value).

Social Impact Partnerships

These partnerships are where the main intent is to achieve social impact. There may be secondary aims related to business value, but the social impact is front and centre.

Corporates who participate in these types of partnerships are typically further along in their Corporate Social Responsibility journey. They recognise the value they can add, whether through funding, resources or skills to solving a social or environmental issue, often in their own backyard.

Usually these types of partnerships involve employee engagement aspects e.g. skilled volunteering. Detailed impact reporting is common and expected. For Corporates, the value in these types of partnerships may come through employee engagement, attraction or retention or from customer or supplier advocacy.

Not-for-Profits deliver most of their work in this quadrant, with and without Corporate partners. The opportunity for Not-for-Profits is to better harness the resources of Corporates to help them achieve and grow their social impact. Opportunities include accessing skilled volunteers and other pro bono resources.

Alignment of values between organisations is particularly important in this quadrant. And often these are programs that have been co-designed by Corporates and Not-for-Profits, each adding their own particular skills to the mix.

Tips for success in the quadrant

  • For Not-for-Profits, be clear about the social impact (the change) you are trying to create – does the Corporate really understand what you are trying to achieve? Can you articulate it for different audiences?
  • Ensure alignment of values with all parties before starting a partnership
  • Co-design is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page
  • For Corporates building incubators or grants programs, remember to consult with key stakeholders i.e. potential beneficiaries during the design phase and you can also involve your employees
  • Measurement of impact is important – invest time and energy up front to get this right, Not-for-Profits should ask for funding or resources to cover the cost of measurement
  • Provide compelling stories to Corporates for them to share with their stakeholders
  • Report back often – don’t wait until the annual review or for when the acquittal form is due, proactively keep your Corporate partner up to date, even if just with anecdotal evidence
  • Conversely, Corporates should provide feedback to Not-for-Profit partners on how their work is being received by employees and other stakeholders 

Strategic (Shared Value) Partnerships

These partnerships are where both a high level of social impact is achieved and a high level of business value is realised. Partnerships in this space are often talked about as being win-win, all parties involved get what they need and the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

Corporates creating partnerships in this quadrant are typically building on a strong track record of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. They are pushing beyond their sponsorships and grants programs to find ways to deliver high levels of business value through their community investment and simultaneously are seeking to maximise the social impact they can help achieve.

Not-for-Profits working in this space are typically either innovative start-ups or larger charities who are trying a business spin-off to help fund social impact programs or have recognised a way to leverage Corporate resources to solve a problem they couldn’t on their own.

Alignment of purpose and co-design of programs is essential in this quadrant. In particular, what makes initiatives in this quadrant work is a strong and credible link between the social impact purpose and the core business of the Corporate e.g. a nutrition partnership for a food manufacturing company, a road safety campaign for an insurance company or a health initiative for a pharmaceutical company.

It’s important to note that a partnership in this quadrant may not always be achievable or the best option – it all depends on what you’re trying to do. These partnerships take a lot of resources to design and deliver, but can have an impact and value many times greater than what is put in.

Tips to success in this quadrant

  • Be clear from the outset that this type of partnership requires more effort and energy
  • It is not a one size fits all approach, in fact almost everything about this will be bespoke
  • Get your values alignment right first and foremost – without this nothing else will work
  • Co-design the initiative or program, consulting with key stakeholders on both sides of the partnership
  • Think big – the whole point of a shared value partnership is to maximise business value and social impact – and don’t be afraid to try something different or experimental
  • Be open to refining the partnership on the go – shared value partnerships can sometimes feel like being part of a start-up, be prepared to try things, fail, tweak, try again
  • Impact measurement is critical – build in financial and social value measures from the start and continue to refine them. Where possible report success and failure publicly, this keeps all parties accountable for their actions

By bridging sector boundaries, the osmosis of ideas and practices naturally gives rise to new models where individuals and communities can thrive without over taxing social sector resources or extinguishing private sector profit.

Hopefully the above, along with PART 1 of this Corporate/ Not-for-Profits partnerships blog series will help you put your thinking into an actionable frame.

To learn more about developing better corporate relationships, download our whitepaper, Partnering for Purpose.

Or get in touch. We love to chat.

or on

+61 3 8804 1731


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *