- The most important thing is being like-minded
For a relationship between an NGO and a corporate to work out, it’s really important to have a shared vision and a goal. Often times, Corporates have specifics goals based on their company policies, or brands, and it’s important for an NGO to understand that they would be working within those confines. If they don’t suit the work of the NGO, it’s best for the NGO to not engage in a partnership because neither party will end up satisfied. It’s extremely important to have a shared goal to ensure that the direction is the same, and to ensure that all parties in the engagement are mutually satisfied.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
Partnerships are formed on a mutual understanding, and realizing that you are investing time and energy (and money!) in trying to create and implement a project. It is very important to spend time in getting to know your potential partner, their work practices, and their expectations. A small and relatively unknown corporate may prove to be a wonderful and flexible partner, while a large corporate with great repute may be surprisingly difficult and bureaucratic to work with. Make sure to examine all these aspects before committing to anything, because in a long term engagement, not knowing your partner well could lead to a very unhappy working relationship.
- Effective communication is invaluable
The development space is unpredictable at best, and downright chaotic at worst; much of an NGO’s work is dependent on individual beneficiaries or a multitude of other partners. Often time there will be challenges and obstacles in executing a partnership agreement based on the agreed upon blueprint, but it’s always key to communicate the challenges, suggested changes and explanations all the while maintaining the same end goal. Corporates appreciate honesty and the journey, and they may surprise you with their flexibility and resourcefulness. It’s also very important to communicate all expectations, progress and activity in a structured and regular manner to ensure everyone is on the same space. Remember, most corporates have had some experience working with non-profits, and effective and clear communication will set you apart in disorganized sector.
- Impact should always be work in progress
Do not wait until the end of an engagement to report your import. Depending on the length of the engagement, impact should be measured periodically and regularly. This will allow you to track your own growth, and also show the Corporate how far you’re coming, or explain the struggles by breaking it down to specific stages. This will set a more realistic end expectation, and explain any deviance that occurs. It also indicates to the corporate that you are on top of things and actively engaged in their work, allowing them to choose to be as involved as they want. Photographs, testimonials, statistics should all be used to indicate impact, and impact should always be progressive in order to show the developments in a project.
- It has all the potential to be a win-win relationship
In India at least, CSR is mandatory for Corporates meeting certain criteria. Just as you are scrambling to find funding, they are scrambling to find a good place to invest in CSR. By being structured and prepared, you can present yourself as an attractive option in the cause area you support. Often time corporate support comes with the added bonus of professional advice, built in volunteering hours, and added visibility and legitimacy. Corporates also engage in CSR with brand building as part of the final goal, so it’s important to be mindful of the same during the engagement. There is a relationship of mutual need, and if perfectly balanced, it’s the best kind of win-win and symbiotic relationship!