Building social purpose through partnerships

Turn to any daily news source, and it’s clear that an astounding number of people around the world are calling for greater social engagement and accountability from corporations.

With this resounding call to action comes a world of opportunities for businesses that have a desire for a deeper social connection.

One avenue is for companies to identify and develop a meaningful partnership with a nonprofit that shares a passion for addressing a common issue and makes operational sense for both organizations.

I’m referring to partnerships that reach beyond the bounds of checkbook-philanthropy and cause-marketing to the level at which both the corporation and nonprofit work together to impact real societal change.

When identifying a potential nonprofit partner, companies would do well to consider alignment as a key relationship component.

Successful corporate/nonprofit partnerships generally have several points of intersection in terms of shared values, commitment to a common cause, mutual respect, and a genuine understanding and appreciation of what each party brings to the table.

While this column looks at these types of partnerships from a corporate perspective, many of these qualities can apply to nonprofits looking for the right business partner.

Other qualities and questions to consider when embarking on a corporate/nonprofit partnership include:

  • Reputation – Is the organization well thought of within its circle of influence and does it have a proven track record for developing and efficiently managing sustainable programs?
  • Innovation – Is there visible demonstration of original thinking, and are there similarities in how both organizations evaluate and approach risk around implementing leading-edge programs?
  • Employee engagement – Does the partnership offer opportunities for employees and company leadership to get involved as volunteers, program collaborators, or organizational mentors for nonprofit board-and-leadership-development?
  • Geographic reach – Does the nonprofit have experience and local connections in the communities of importance to the company?
  • Partnership Experience – What background does each entity bring to the relationship with regard to corporate/nonprofit partnerships? Are both organizations transparent about their reason for partnering, expectations and desired outcomes?
  • Measurement – Is there a commitment to measuring program results, and does the nonprofit have a systematic approach for identifying and communicating meaningful program outcomes?

Forming an impactful nonprofit partnership may be one of many steps a company takes toward becoming a force for good in society, but it can be a positive step.

If the partnership is formed thoughtfully and knowledgeably, both parties stand to gain a great deal and, ultimately, society is a winner as well.

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