How to set up effective Corporate / Not-for-Profit partnerships PART 1/2

Effective partnerships can be the key to unlocking scale for an organisation. The matching of corporates and not-for-profits brings huge potential to provide both financial sustainability and also increase social impact. With these seemingly obvious benefits, why then aren’t we seeing more partnerships between corporates and not-for-profits?

Through our recent work bridging these two sectors we’ve found four effective models and learnt the best ways to set them up. In this two-part blog series we’ll be unpacking each of the Corporate / Not-for-Profit partnerships types in the diagram below, starting with Traditional Philanthropic and Business/Strategic Value partnerships.

Traditional Philanthropic Partnerships

These partnerships are often part of a Corporate’s legacy; they may be long standing community partnerships or grants programs that have run for years.

Usually they involve small donations or grants, fundraising, collection of goods and volunteering hours being committed by the Corporate’s employees in support of a cause, often health or local community focused.

While it may seem that having a partnership in the low business value/low social impact quadrant of the diagram above wouldn’t be desired, it’s often very appropriate for a Corporate to have programs of this type. Payroll giving, for example, is almost an expected employee benefit these days with young Australians even favouring employers who offer workplace giving  – so value may be in the form of employee engagement and retention.

For many Not-for-Profits these are seen as opportunities for smaller organisations, often not worth the effort for a larger charity. However, there is an enormous potential through workplace giving to reach a whole new range of people. Partnerships in this space can also be an opening into moving a project into the social impact or business value quadrants.

Not-for-Profits should recognise that there’s a great opportunity in this quadrant if you think beyond the idea of transactional giving and volunteering.

Tips for success in this quadrant

  • Focus on quick wins that aren’t overly complicated – keep it simple!
  • Don’t invest too much by way of dollars or time into these partnerships, they should be low cost and straight-forward
  • Employee engagement is the main driver for Corporates in this quadrant; be clear about how and when employees can get involved and what the scope of their involvement will be
  • Don’t expend too much effort on social impact measurement, funders in this quadrant aren’t expecting detailed analysis – focus instead on the input and output indicators – How much is being raised? By who? Where? How many hours did the volunteers give? Any good news stories that can be shared?
  • Be timely in providing a thank you and a high level report back to the Corporate partner
  • In time, and if appropriate, explore how programs in this quadrant can be built upon to move into the other quadrants

Business/Strategic Value Partnerships

These are partnerships where commercial or other business value is the primary aim. Typically, these are Corporate sponsorships, where brand and marketing value is the main objective.

There is greater potential for Not-for-Profits to explore the idea of this quadrant – it’s

not just the domain of Corporates. Not-for- Profits can, for example, focus their corporate engagement programs on achieving business value for themselves, rather than trying to make a Corporate partnership fit into the social impact box.

A particularly important aspect of these partnerships is measuring the return on investment (ROI). Corporates need to know that they have achieved business value, which may be in form of revenue generation, savings or in brand or marketing return.

Not-for-Profits are often not well equipped to support this type of ROI reporting. A big opportunity exists in this quadrant for Not- for-Profits that can build a compelling pitch to Corporates, built around clear and measurable inputs, outputs and outcomes.

Tips for success in this quadrant

  • Not-for-Profits should take the time to learn about the core business of their Corporate partner – understanding how their business works will go a long way in helping to design or pitch
  • Read the Corporate’s website – what are they trying to achieve? Read their annual review
  • Not-for-Profits should try wearing the hat of their Corporate partner’s customers or shareholders – how would you receive the news that a company you buy from was now partnering with your Not-for-Profit? Does it make sense to you?
  • Explore the best way to communicate the value of the partnership with the Corporate – reporting on these types of partnerships is a bit different and Not-for-Profits may need to learn a bit more about financial reporting and brand metrics
  • Business/Strategic Value partnerships are not just the territory of Corporates, Not-for-Profits should also think about what they need – could a partnership in this space help to acquire donors?

There is no ‘right’ type of partnership – ‘right’ will look different for each organisation to realise the huge benefits of partnering with a corporate or not-for-profit. In part two of this blog series, we will explore the remaining two partnership types, Social Impact and the heroic top right quadrant partnership (where business and social value is high), Strategic (Shared Value).

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

Or get in touch. We love to chat.

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+61 3 8804 1731, +61 2 8076 9399


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