Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer
24 September 2014 at 11:40 am
Both NGOs and businesses are beginning to understand the greater value that strategic long-term partnerships can bring to address mission-focused objectives, a new Barometer Report reveals.
The Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer 2014 is the fifth in a series of annual surveys of current practice, drivers and key trends in cross sector partnerships by London-based specialist consultancy C&E.
The report found that investment (of time, commitment and resources) in corporate-NGO partnering is set to grow over the next three years, with 60 per cent of business and 95 per cent of NGO respondents expecting their investment in cross-sector partnerships to either increase or increase significantly over the next three years.
It found sentiment about the mid-term prospects for corporate-NGO partnering remains very positive. Some 90 per cent of respondents state that partnerships will become more or much more important over the next three years. Not a single respondent anticipates a decline in importance for partnerships, the report said.
“The desire by companies and NGOs to leverage each other (91 per cent), pressure on businesses to demonstrate societal consideration (77 per cent), and evidence of the success of partnerships (70 per cent) are the key drivers behind this expected growth,” the report found.
“It is also more noticeable than ever that a real note of optimism across the sector is beginning to emerge in stronger ways than we have witnessed over the life of the Barometer – as perhaps reflects the generally increased level of economic optimism and continued recovery from the financial crisis.
“Corporate-NGO partnerships are now clearly higher on the agenda for both sectors – and extremely well supported by leaders on both sides.”
The Barometer also illustrated some key areas of weakness that both corporates and NGOs may improve upon.
In particular, the report said, corporates may be able to better communicate the benefits of their partnerships to external stakeholders and both sectors can benefit further from prioritizing the partnership review processes.
The report said reputation is a leading factor across both sectors – but cash remains king for NGOs.
Corporates and NGOs have differing reasons for wishing to partner – though some overlap.
- With a score of 92% per cent enhancing brand or corporate reputation and credibility is the private motive for engaging in partnerships with NGOs.
- This is followed equally by long-term stability and impact (a factor which has moved up the corporates’ priority list significantly this year), and innovation (both at 73 per cent).
- Businesses are also increasingly motivated by the need to develop their people through partnerships (63 per cent score).
- By contrast, NGOs remain primarily interested in the opportunity to access funds, with 95 per cent of NGO respondents listing resource generation as the lead reason for partnering.
- However, long-term stability and impact has moved significantly up the NGOs’ agenda over the last year with over 70 per cent of NGOs now realising how important a factor this is. This has been a general trend amongst NGOs over the five-year history of this unique Barometer series. It reflects an ever-greater realisation from NGOs of the value of long-term partnerships and the assistance with programme delivery in non-financial ways that partnerships can bring.
- Similarly, 73 per cent of NGO respondents value access to people and contacts (drawing on a wider pool of technical expertise, experience, skills, labour and networks) whilst two-thirds of NGO respondents agree that reputation and credibility is the third most important reason for partnerships.
Since its inception five years ago, the Barometer series has shown a significant overall shift towards strategic partnerships. This trend has continued to 2014 with more respondents demonstrating an understanding of the strategic importance of partnerships.
But there are significant differences; 42 per cent of NGO respondents classify more than half their partnerships as ‘strategic’, compared with 64 per cent of corporate respondents.
“The findings seem to indicate that the corporate sector remains ahead of NGOs in understanding the strategic importance and overall position of partnerships in yielding value for stakeholders,” the report said.
“NGOs may need to think more carefully about their partnership portfolio design and management, as well as the efficiencies in resource use that can derive from having a more strategic approach.”
The Barometer discovered an overwhelming level of confidence that strategic partnerships between NGOs and businesses are meeting their objectives and delivering value, with 90 per cent of respondents expressing such views.
“Senior leaders best understand the importance of, and engage most in, partnerships,” it said.
The 2014 Barometer took a first look at the perceived role of colleagues from different functions in the partnering process.
Overall, all colleagues are perceived to broadly supportive with an aggregate figure of 79 per cent being seen to be either engaged and supportive or highly so. Senior leaders scored highest, whilst HR and finance colleagues scored lowest.
From the NGOs’ perspective, senior leaders and marketing people are seen to be the most supportive, with HR people scoring lowest. From the corporates’ perspective, finance staff score lowest whilst senior leaders are perceived as being highly engaged.
“There is work to be done by both sectors to better engage finance and HR colleagues,” the Report said.
The Report said corporates are better than their NGO counterparts at reviewing partnership performance.
Both NGOs and corporates recognise the importance of internal reviews of partnerships, as well as reviews with their partners. Over 90 per cent of all respondents undertake annual reviews of partnerships. Corporates, however, seem to place more importance on carrying out reviews both internally and with their NGO partners.
The Barometer found scope for improvement in the review processes for long-term partnerships. Such reviews often present an opportunity to understand what aspects of the partnership are working well and how they might be further leveraged, and conversely, what is not working well and how improvements can be made.
“Corporate-NGO partnerships are really moving the dial for businesses with the overwhelming majority (87 per cent) of corporate respondents stating that corporate-NGO partnerships have improved business understanding of social and environmental issues.”
Most respondents from the corporate sector (59 per cent ) said that their key NGO partnerships have helped their companies to change their practices for the better. The 14 per cent year on year increase in this score is very notable.
The report said business respondents are also notably more bullish about the value that can derive from harnessing their competencies in non-cash ways to aid the achievement of NGO goals. Some 68 per cent of corporate respondents agree that harnessing their competencies and non-cash assets would better boost the achievement of NGO objectives through financial support alone.
This compares with 48 per cent of NGOs in agreement with the proposition – a gap of some 20 per cent between the corporate and NGO views.
“But the gap is narrowing, as the 48 per cent of NGO respondents who now agree that “by effectively harnessing our corporate partners’ competencies and non-cash assets my NGO can make much more of an impact…” represents an increase of 12 per cent on 2013.
“Overall, this practitioner-led 2014 edition of the C&E Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer again confirms the importance of partnerships for both companies and NGOS and that their prospects are better than at any time over the last five years,” the report concluded.
See the full report here.