Mythbusting Not for Profit Partnerships
21 August 2013 at 5:37 am
The National Fundraising Manager from Ronald McDonald House Charities, Kelly Mancey and the organisation’s Corporate Partnerships lead, Matthew Henry draw on their experience to provide expert advice on partnering with Not for Profit organisations.
Corporate partnerships with Not for Profits are becoming a key way for business to engage with the community sector, stakeholders and consumers. Whether integrated as part of a broader CSR strategy,used as a tool to boost staff engagement and workplace culture or add bottom line value, partnerships are proving to be a mutually beneficial and engaging undertaking for corporates involved.
A thoughtful and informed approach to partnering will put corporates in the best possible position to make use of the wealth of opportunities and value the Not for Profit sector can offer.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia (RMHC) is a charity providing a wide range of programs to help seriously ill children and their families across the country. Their cornerstone program is Ronald McDonald House which provides accommodation for families with seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
Through the lens of RMHC and their growing suite of corporate partners, we can get to the crux of those partnerships that are successful, sustainable and long lasting, and reflect on how business may best approach these opportunities.
It’s all about the ‘why?’
It is vital to find a partner with whom a workable, happy and mutually beneficial partnership is possible. Not for Profits are keen to harness the passion of corporate supporters.
Many Not for Profits, RMHC included, actively work to source partnerships. Even if you’re not approached, you can also do the approaching. In either case, clarity of purpose is key.
Any partnership should not be entered into without careful consideration, and it is important before entering into any new partnership to look at what it is that your organisation would like to achieve. These discussions can be top level and broad, encompassing abstract ideas like organisational values and mission, community spirit and strategic aims such as fulfilling CSR objectives.
Your objectives might take the form of more concrete and specific outcomes such as building trust with consumers, reinforcing your brand values and brand personality attributes or developing rich and meaningful content for social media and other marketing activities. Aligning your brand with a trusted and meaningful cause through a partnership with a Not for Profit can provide consumers with the opportunity to engage with your brand and product at an emotive level, which pays real dividends when trying to influence the consumer decision making process.
While negotiation will ultimately be the crux of a successful partnership, these ideas will help Not for Profits understand your hopes and goals and thus will also be valuable to communicate to a prospective partner.
The nitty gritty of agreements
It is key to appreciate that partnership agreements tend to be structured similarly to a classic business partnership. This will involve a formal agreement or contract stating the terms of the partnership that will need to be looked at carefully before proceeding.
Some Not for Profits, RMHC included, prefer to formally set a commitment timeframe to emphasise longer term partnerships.
This kind of commitment will be a win for your organisation – at RMHC we have seen that these longer term partnerships can foster really meaningful and warm relationships between us and our partners. A level of understanding develops that cannot be so easily captured through short term collaboration, and this allows us to build on what are already strong relationships.
Expect that measurement and assessment of the partnership will also play an important role. So key is this, that at RMHC, measurement of partnerships occurs for each and every agreement we enter into.
Measurement may take the form of marketing touch points reached, level of social media campaign engagement and reach, increased sales during a targeted Cause Related Marketing (CRM) campaign or increased levels of staff engagement evidenced through decreased absenteeism and increased productivity.
When both parties to the agreement are giving the partnership time, funds and energy, it is important to have rich and tangible evidence of positive return for everyone and evaluate what is being done well and what can be done better.
The perfect match
The most important thing to look for in a partner is a synergy between your organisation and theirs.
This alignment can take on a number of different forms. Some organisations may be compatible on a pure product, brand or marketing base, but their values and mission may also be compatible with yours. It is key to go beyond the superficial similarities and find a Not for Profit that has a similar culture and spirit.
You should also think about how your prospective Not for Profit partner is structured. As a national charity with programs in every state and territory, location is not an issue for RMHC and so more involved corporate contributions such as volunteering programs are possible. Partners need only be local to one Ronald McDonald House, but this may not always be the case for other prospective Not for Profit partners.
Logistically, what is possible will depend on your location. Some organisations have disparate locations or a separated by prohibitive distances for physical engagement to take place. This is when you may defer to Not for Profits with systems in place where you can get involved remotely, such as workplace giving or external fundraising events.
Perhaps surprisingly, size doesn’t matter. Not for Profit organisations with only a few employees have partnered with multinational corporations because of a fit with mission and objective. RMHC has a significant presence in the sector yet it also partners with corporate that aren’t a match in size through its grassroots and community-based accommodation projects, so do not let scale affect your passion for a particular charity or cause.
Why be good when you can be great?
Not for Profits nationwide are offering a wide range of ways in which corporates may get involved.
For example, RMHC offers a suite of options:
Brand alignment and Cause Related Marketing opportunities
Sponsorship of events
Donation of material goods needed in Ronald McDonald Houses and other programs
Staff engagement and corporate volunteering opportunities
The individual demands and benefits of each form of engagement vary dramatically, so it is crucial to consider what you can offer but also what you would like to get out of it as an organisation.
The way in which Not for Profits may prefer your organisation to engage varies. Some Not for Profits may have specific requirements, for example, requiring a form of financial support in exchange for providing corporate volunteering opportunities.
These requirements are not intended to be limiting for corporates, rather, they provide the best possible experiences for corporate partners and the opportunity to undertake activities providing added value.
At RMHC we have seen partners in our corporate volunteer program build positive workplace culture, engage their staff and experience contributing to lives of seriously ill children in a personal, constructive and memorable way that could not be achieved through more remote forms of involvement such a workplace giving. This presents real value and benefits for a corporate partner.
Our corporate volunteer program includes opportunities to cook meals for the families and children at the Ronald McDonald Houses, run Working Bees or get involved in third party fundraising activities. All of these provide staff with first-hand interaction with our programs and mission.
Not for Profits will always be grateful for the support but will often be managing a number of partnerships concurrently and needing to cover costs associated with organisation and logistics. Any requirements will have the sole purpose of allowing the focus to be on the positive and meaningful things that be achieved through the partnership and the value back to you as a corporate partner.
Rewards for all
Forming and sustaining partnerships require partners to put themselves in each other’s shoes and appreciate the objectives and needs of each other. Appreciation of the shared value to be achieved is crucial.
RMHC, for example, approaches partnerships with the idea of engaging multiple areas of a corporate partner’s business to create broader value and impact. It is important for our prospective partners to be aware of the scope of what this may entail.
Part of our strategy in planning is to work with corporate partners to identify specific issues that a corporate may assist us with to increase our efficiency in achieving our mission. This has proven to be a way that allows the partnership’s shared value objectives to be achieved in a way that is clear and tangible.
These objectives may vary, but for the provision of value to Not for Profits, corporates can certainly receive value back in a range of ways, including:
Improvement in staff morale, engagement, culture and appreciation of company involvement in the community sector.
Brand and marketing value from alignment with a well-known, trusted and meaningful cause
Fulfilment of company CSR objectives.
Go where your imagination takes you
Above all, approach the prospect of a new partnership with enthusiasm and openness. There may be formalities, negotiation and energy required to get partnerships moving, but RMHC has found through a number of wonderful collaborations that where corporates are unlimited in their passion for the cause and open to possibilities, satisfying relationships with shared valued may be fostered and a lot of good can happen.