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CoCreate Insights Report: Corporate-NGO Partnership Trends


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Working in partnership with businesses is an increasingly central strategic priority for many NGOs. Yet for every successful high profile partnership, there are many others that do not even get off the ground, or fail to deliver real value despite plenty of work on both sides. In this short Insights report, CoCreate Senior Consultant Andy Caldwell explores some of the emerging trends in NGO-Business Partnerships, specifically providing five key insights for NGOs and other organisations looking to partner with businesses.

To learn more about our work in the area of Corporate-NGO partnerships, check out our Corporate Partnership Essentials Webinar Training Course:

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CoCreate Insights Report: Corporate-NGO Partnership Trends

  1. 1.     1   Corporate Partnerships for NGOs Insights into Developing Effective Partnerships March 2014 Lead Consultant: Andy Caldwell Company Registration number: 7974493
  2. 2.     2   Why do Corporates and NGOs partner? We instinctively understand that NGO- Corporate partnerships present opportunities for new value, yet the drivers for partnership and the perception of value experienced by businesses and NGOs is often very different. This short report summarises some of the key focus areas for NGOs as they consider how to build their corporate partnership strategies. The Drivers of NGO-Corporate Partnerships Research demonstrates that corporate-NGO partnerships are of growing importance to both the corporate and NGO sector, with 96% of NGOs and 85% of businesses expecting their partnerships to grow in importance over the next five years.1 The recent C&E Advisory Report provided excellent insight into the motivations and aspirations for businesses and charities when partnering with each other:                                                                                                                 1   2  2013  Cone  Global  CSR  Survey:  Research  shows  that  when  faced  with  two  similar  or  identical  products,  91%  of  consumers  are   2  2013  Cone  Global  CSR  Survey:  Research  shows  that  when  faced  with  two  similar  or  identical  products,  91%  of  consumers  are   very  likely  or  somewhat  likely  to  choose  the  one  associated  with  a  good  cause.        
  3. 3.     3   Given these disparate motives for partnership, it’s no surprise that Corporate- NGO partnerships often end up failing to deliver to their full potential. In our experience of partnerships, this can often end up with an NGO investing too much time or energy into a corporate partnership that does not deliver sufficient value and may distract from the focus on their core mission and goals. In this short Insights Report, we provide our top five recommendations for NGOs as they focus on their Corporate Partnership Strategy. Insight One: Understand the evolving CSR agenda Many businesses are under increasing pressure. In an era of commoditisation, other companies can often make a product of similar value and quality, and standing out from the crowd can be a challenge. Add into the mix difficult a more discerning consumer2, and an emerging wave of talent entering the workplace who demand a different kind of employer,3 and it becomes clear that the shift we are seeing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a good- will gesture, but rather a response to a changing world. The result is a CSR agenda that has shifted from philanthropy and risk management, to one that is increasingly connected to a businesses commercial strategy. This is often referred to as the drive towards Creating Shared Value.                                                                                                                   3  2013  Net  Impact  Millennial  Report  demonstrated  that  58%  of  Gen  Y  graduates  would  take  a  pay  cut  to  work  for  an   organisation  with  similar  values  to  their  own.   Figure  2:  The  shifting  focus  of  CSR  
  4. 4.     4   This evolving focus on Creating Shared Value can open up new opportunities to NGOs and Sports Bodies, as an increasing number of business stakeholders are responsible for developing or activating partnerships with NGOs. CoCreate helps organisations to understand the areas where opportunities for partnership exist – the graphic below provides a simple overview of this.   Figure  3:  Business  Areas  with  CSR  Focus   Insight Two: Identify your own partnership needs and assets The reality for many NGOs is that corporate partnership opportunities occur infrequently, and the temptation is always there to grab what is on offer in the hope that it will lead to a more sustained relationship. This can work, although there are also many partnerships that do not deliver mutual value to those involved. In order for a partnership to last and grow, it is vital that it is connected to your core aims and objectives, and is meeting some strategic need. We often find NGOs and sports bodies undervalue what they have to leverage in a partnership, which can lead to a ‘recipient mind-set’ when approaching potential corporate partners. Our advice is to know what you have to offer a partnership, and to do so confidently in the knowledge that many businesses will value what you can do for them.
  5. 5.     5   The CoCreate Partnerships Process® is designed to help NGOs and businesses to work through their own partnership needs, but also to consider the assets you have to bring to a partnership. We work through this process with organisations, whether through an individual consultancy project or via one of our training courses or webinars. We believe the start point for effective partnerships is always to know what you have, and what you are looking for in order to head off in the right direction from the outset. Insight Three: Create opportunities for potential corporate partners Many Corporate Partnership opportunities may arise through an interesting networking conversation or a mutual connection; in fact our recent research demonstrated this4. The challenge often lies in the fact that many NGOs have no way of following up on that initial conversation with a proposal or more detail. CoCreate’s recent research demonstrated this, as the graphic below illustrates that most NGOs who participated in our survey do not have a range of materials that enable them to describe how they intend to partner with a business.                                                                                                                 4  In  our  recent  research,  85%  of  respondents  identified  corporate  partners  through  their  supporter  network  and  57%  through   networking  events   • Partnership aims • Your needs & assets • Potential partners & projects • Creating the vision • Agreeing outcomes • Defining roles • Contracting • Evaluating impact • Software platform • Sharing outcomes • Implementation plans • Partnership activity • Monitoring & improving Identifying Measuring Implementing Structuring KEY PRINCIPLES For creating beneficial Corporate-NGO partnerships Figure  5:  How  NGOs  present  opportunities  
  6. 6.     6   We recommend that NGOs develop a range of simple partnership resources, that describe how you partner with businesses, the mutual benefits you envisage from partnering (rather than a grant application form), and the ways in which a partner can engage with your organisation. This approach helps to move conversations from the initial ideas stage, and towards real action. Insight Four: Demonstrate credibility Entering into a partnership can be a risk for all parties, and as we have seen most businesses are looking to enhance their reputation and credibility (see figure 1). With this in mind, it is essential to de-risk your organisation as a potential partner, by establishing credibility with corporates. There are a number of factors that create credibility, and when attempting to do so it's vital to remember that you are looking to establish two key areas of credibility: 1. The credibility of your organisation and the work it does 2. The credibility of your organisation as a corporate partner In terms of establishing credibility for point one, there are a number of factors that you may wish to highlight (briefly!) in any documents, presentations or communications. These include: • The mission of your organisation and length of time established • The results you achieve in respect of your mission • Your size and reach of your organisation • Awards, press or positive PR • Other supporters or funders When looking to establish credibility as a corporate partner, remember that for many businesses the partnerships and results you have achieved with other partners will be of high interest to them. You should also consider how you could meet the specific needs of corporate partners. The graphic opposite is a Figure  6:  Corporates  partnership  needs  
  7. 7.     7   summary of what corporates or looking for from NGO partnerships, where possible you may want to reference how you will help them to meet their needs through a partnership with your organisation.   Insight Five: Develop a communication strategy If you work through insights one through to four, your next key step will be to create a communication strategy around corporate partnerships. This needs to take into account the resources available to your organisation, and does not need to be hugely onerous or time consuming. What it should do is focus on the areas of greatest potential return for your organisation, and include how you will both engage and work through your current contacts and supporter network, together with engaging with potential new corporate partners. This is often referred to as an Inbound and/or an Outbound communications strategy. In particular consider the following key communication strategies: • Utilising your current supporter contacts to generate referrals to more appropriate contacts within a business • Providing a range of further engagement opportunities to any corporate contacts that you have already established • Generating more incoming enquiries through your website and an ‘Inbound’ marketing strategy • Utilising CoCreate’s Corporate Communication Tool in order to prioritise your corporate communication strategy We hope these insights enable you to develop more impactful and sustainable corporate partnerships that lead to greater impact and innovation. Good luck! Figure  7:  Inbound  &  Outbound  comms  
  8. 8.     8   “These webinars have been immensely valuable in equipping us to try our hand with corporate partnerships, we all feel incredibly enthused about it. Thanks for the quality and clarity of your teaching style - and for supporting us to create the materials." Charlotte Temple, Development and Strategy Advisor Oasis Uganda Oasis Trust About CoCreate CoCreate are global experts in cross-sector partnerships, working globally to support partnerships for NGOs, Sports Federations and Corporate partners. We believe that partnerships should unlock mutual value for all partners, and our mission is to support all organisations to achieve this. Corporate Partnership Essentials Course CoCreate offers Corporate Partnership Essentials for NGOs or Sports Bodies looking for further support with their Corporate Partnership strategy. The course equips NGOs with the knowledge and skills to create valuable corporate partnerships, and is delivered through a cutting-edge virtual learning programme. Corporate Partnership Essentials: Learning Objectives We keep the group ratio to a manageable size, ensuring that we can develop a network across attendees, and give airtime to every person attending. By the end of the course participants will have: Gained insight into the future direction of corporate-NGO partnerships Identified your partnership needs and the assets you can leverage Created or enhanced your corporate partnership strategy Developed practical materials, including partnership opportunities, proposals and presentations to utilise in approaching partners Developed influencing and negotiation skills, and commercial awareness Expanded your professional network For further information – check out our online Webinar Training Courses Case Study