Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships: Just Use Common Sense!

Upon reading one of the latest articles released by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships: A New Framework, I wasn’t quite sure that it’s all that new. To me, it’s really just about common sense.

Tynesia Boyea-Robinson states that for-profit businesses have a desire to participate in collective impact efforts. And yet, I question that statement. I’m not certain that businesses are clamoring to participate in collective impact. From what I’ve heard, nonprofits are weary of collective impact – for lots of reasons, but mostly because it is simply hard. Let’s face it: putting aside egos and territorialism in a well-meaning effort to identify and work towards common goals is not something that comes naturally to most of us.

Boyea-Robinson then goes on to talk about the four types of stakeholders involved in securing partnerships. Having been involved with many types of partnerships over the past 15+ years of my professional career, it really comes down to determining why the individual is interested. Are they participating because they have a genuine interest, and it pulls at their heartstrings? Are they there because their boss told them to be there? Are they there because it will make them look good to their boss and their boss’s boss? Understanding why they are participating in the conversation is the key to determining how best to engage them in our partnership work.

And – like almost anything else – your ability to develop a successful partnership comes down to timing. Is the company looking for opportunities to partner with the nonprofit sector? Is there a willingness from the company leadership to make the partnership a priority? Is their business stable enough to be able to focus on such a partnership?

And what, exactly, does “partnership” really mean to them? Ask them how they define it. Be ready to talk about what their competitors are doing. Talk about “companies” or “entities,” and not “organizations.” Ask them point-blank about the questions or concerns they have, and be prepared to address them.

Be prepared. Be respectful of their time. Ask good questions. Follow up and do what you promised. Just use your common sense.

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