Corporate partnerships are a challenge for any non-profit, but can often feel especially out of reach for the smallest organisations, who can’t rely on large brands or networks.
One of the major risks for small NGOs working to build a corporate programme is the “transactional partnership” trap, which leads to a merely contractual relationship, rather than something more transformational and two-way. A meaningful partnership, where shared goals are at the core of the strategy and impact is achieved for both partners.
These five examples show how genuine impact can be achieved by small organisations through proactive and purposeful collaboration with business.
The sweet partnership
The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) is a pioneering social enterprise that teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s in 2017 to reach a shared goal: empowering refugee entrepreneurs in the UK.
They jointly set up the Ice Academy, an innovative incubator programme for refugees to receive training and mentoring. As well as part-time employment, the Academy provides invaluable access to finance, resources, networks and opportunities. A new ice-cream flavour – Spice & All Things N’Ice – was also launched to raise awareness and contribute to a cooperative grant fund managed by the entrepreneurs at TERN.
What small NGOs can learn: don’t be disheartened by your lack of history or exposure: when the mission is shared, age doesn’t matter. TERN had only just launched when it partnered with a well-established brand that had been on the market for over 40 years.
The purposeful partnership
On Purpose is a community that helps young professionals achieve a meaningful career change to put purpose before profit. Their one-year Fellowship Programme sees interns spend time in different organisations, and one corporate partner is Lightful, a social impact company developing tech for social good.
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The paid interns learn new skills, repurpose their existing ones, and gain exposure to a huge network of companies and professionals, making it easier for them to find job opportunities once the fellowship ends. At the same time, they are adding value to Lightful and its team.
What small NGOs can learn: partnerships can help build capacity for both parties, it’s not always about brand exposure.
The shared goal partnership
Women Win leverages the power of sport and play to empower women through building leadership skills and supporting them to exercise their rights. In 2006 Standard Chartered Bank launched its Goal Programme with Women Win as one of the primary partners. Goal is a curriculum for girls aged 12-18 using sport to build their social capital and develop their economic and social skills.
With a target of reaching 500,000 girls by 2018, Standard Chartered and Women Win scaled the initiative by licensing the Goal curriculum to other local partners across Asia and Africa.
What small NGOs can learn: large businesses usually have the financial resources to develop social impact programmes, but often rely on the expertise of small, grassroot NGOs for implementation.
The mapped partnership
Mapping areas before a crisis is an efficient way to support humanitarian work, as it enables emergency responders to reach those in need faster and more efficiently. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) revolutionises disaster management in remote areas through map data, in collaboration with local communities and corporate partners.
As part of their 2016 Missing Maps Project, they trained Accenture employees to chart vulnerable “unmapped” areas in a global digital volunteering “mapathon”. Employees mapped at their desk (or in groups) for as little as one hour.
This helped Accenture create a sense of community within and across their global offices, while actively making a difference in in supporting humanitarian work and disaster response in remote areas.
What small NGOs can learn: when it’s done right, corporate volunteering plays a vital role for small organisations, and technology offers new, creative ways of doing it.
The learning partnership
In 2017, international law firm DLA Piper launched “Know Your Rights“, a pro bono programme that delivers training and advice to empower refugees and increase their legal knowledge and integration.
After a successful launch in Belgium, the firm went on to establish partnerships in several European countries, including with the French NGO Terre d’Asil. DLA Piper delivers the programme by leveraging their own corporate relationships with clients such as Nike, Amazon and BNP Paribas, who teach additional classes alongside their local NGO partners.
What small NGOs can learn: a successful initial partnership can have a “multiplier effect” and inspire organisations to scale and adapt their programmes globally. Being part of an international network can help attract those opportunities.
As you can see, corporate partnerships come in all shapes and sizes. They can last for as little as one hour to several years, and can focus on local impact or work at a global scale.
When the goal is shared, the gains can be far greater than a simple marketing exercise. Services, resources and expertise can be leveraged to transform both businesses and social good causes, if you think outside the box.
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