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Mutual Benefits: Partnerships - Disability Sector

14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm
Staff Reporter
A unique Australian study of community-business partnerships in the disability sector has found a 71 per cent increase in the number of organisations involved in partnerships.

Staff Reporter | 14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm


Mutual Benefits: Partnerships - Disability Sector
14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm

A unique Australian study of community-business partnerships in the disability sector has found a 71 per cent increase in the number of organisations involved in partnerships – all involving a myriad of well known and other rather unusual products including works of art, commercial lighting and even recycled sawdust briquettes.

In the first study of its kind in Australia, the national industry association for disability services, ACROD, surveyed nearly 8,500 partnerships between community groups and commercial businesses.

ACROD’s Chief Executive, Ken Baker says that what is most striking about the survey is the sheer variety of forms such partnerships can take.

Baker says not only has there been an overall growth in numbers, but also in the innovative ways in which partners learn and feed off each other.

He says while many valued partnerships involve, for example, pro bono work by solicitors or the donation of funds and services by staff several other types flourish to the mutual benefit of both partners.

Disability organisations define ‘community business’ partnerships broadly, encompassing partnerships with for-profit businesses, but also with Not for Profit bodies.

In confirming anecdotal evidence that large and small organisations have been involved in a variety of business partnerships over many years, this does not appear to have been widely recognised outside the disability sector.

Disability organisations would like the whole range of partnerships to be encouraged and would welcome assistance to experiment with and be creative about new types of links and joint endeavours.

Of a sample of 169 disability organisations, 72 per cent had experience of partnerships with business either currently, in the past or at negotiation stage.
The remaining 28 per cent had no experience of partnerships with business.

The most common types of partnership were:
 ongoing donations in-kind (92 organisations)
 partnerships with service or sporting clubs/sponsorships (74 organisations)
 ongoing donations of funds, pro bono work or corporate volunteering and partnerships with trusts or foundations (73 organisations)
 joint ventures (62 organisations, mainly employment services).

The study supports evidence of some shift from the more philanthropic types of partnerships to the less philanthropic.

The largest growth in the number of organisations involved with each type of partnership has been in strategic alliances (up 212 per cent over organisations involved with this type in the past) and joint ventures (up 162 per cent).

Significant growth was also evident in organisations linked with pro bono work and corporate volunteering, community forums, partnerships with other business entities, three-way partnerships and partnerships for employment generation.

Overall, there has been a 71 per cent increase in the number of organisations involved in partnerships.

The ‘corporate philanthropy’ types of partnerships in the sample were towards a ‘preferred charity’ model for donations and large scale corporate volunteering. In these partnerships, money did not come from companies as direct philanthropy. Rather, staff (encouraged by their company) were doing the fundraising, or the funds were essentially part of the company’s marketing or safety programs. The same applied to ongoing donations in kind and corporate volunteering.

Donations, both of funds and in-kind, came more from people working in business—through employee payroll deductions, company staff clubs or people working in business who join service clubs such as the Variety Club or Rotary or Lions—rather than from businesses themselves.

Public companies are at times constrained in the amount of money they can donate, unless there is a clear benefit by way of profits, through marketing or promotion or through increased safety and productivity.

Many of these partnerships result in the recruiting and training of employees with disabilities for commercial ventures. Examples include managing coffee shops, training public transport staff, maintaining fire fighting hoses and processing foods.

Partnerships also assist organisations to design web sites, journals and advertising campaigns. One employment agency in Western Australia partnered with a number of Australian companies operating in Indonesia to create employment for people with disabilities in that country.

Mutual Benefit: Community and Business Getting Together – A focus on partnerships in the disability sector, was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services. The full report can be viewed online at www.

If you would like a copy of the summary of findings and conclusions in Word format just send us an e-mail to

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