6 Ingredients for a Masterpiece Corporate Partnership
Partnerships are like recipes. Every recipe has ingredients to make it work, replicable and memorable. Recipes to phenomenal partnerships, just like recipes to the most delicious dishes, will result in desired and sustainable outputs and outcomes for everyone if followed carefully and with the right intentions. These outcomes are the stories that partners proudly share with the world.
Social sector work is rewarding yet challenging. By strictly selecting and courting organizations that share your values, you simplify life for yourself and your potential partners. To ground this proposition and entice you to give it a go at your next organizational meeting of the minds, here is a recipe of six essential ingredients.
1. Understanding and Communication
Understanding the other party — as another with similar and equal rights, privileges and desires as you — is key to a successful partnership. It is all too easy to get stuck in the mind trap of thinking of corporate partners as a means to an end rather than ends in themselves — not a good approach and better left for Machiavellian political strategists.
People who work in corporate social responsibility are typically amazing people looking to help. The existence of a social sector makes their jobs possible. You provide them with an outlet — partner with people, not corporations. Don’t let politics shift your vision.
2. Shared Community
Why do some corporate funders restrict partnerships to the areas where they are based and operate? Community matters. Community incorporates the people, places and areas of interest that matter to leadership, employees and brand. Identify partners that have the most significant overlap with your organization’s community.
3. Shared Values
If your values don’t align with theirs, quit chasing them. Think people, not companies. Do you want a partner with values that do not align with yours? Most likely not, but even if you do, it’s more than likely they won’t take an interest in you. There is an endless supply of good causes and an abundance of organizations doing work that matches what that funder values. With shared values, partners know what to fall back on or fall forward into when miscommunication happens or projects and plans experience setbacks.
4. Shared Mission
A shared mission is easy to identify through some basic research, yet some don’t take the time. Don’t skip this step. Take the time to research what organizations and missions a potential funder has supported. What themes do you see? You can find what they are most proud of in their annual reports, press releases and public statements. Missions move you and move them. Consider how you can serve their mission before thinking about what they can do for you. Reframe and place yourself in a position of collaboration, and your path will be more organic.
Win-wins almost always win. I’ve seen that win-wins work best, and they are also easy to find if you take the time. It takes extra preparation and thoughtfulness, but don’t worry. If you already have the first four ingredients, you are already on your way to a win-win. Win-wins work well in every relationship, especially in the nonprofit corporate collaborative relationship. They keep collaboration healthy and make it highly probable that all parties are satisfied, satiated and without regret.
Win-wins embody mutuality which is pleasant to the palette and critical at every stage — from the beginning, through pairing, to parting and beyond; it is the mindset of collaborative thinking in which everyone counts.
Timing is everything. Like the perfect component that makes your dish the most sought-after in town, sometimes you need to wait until next season to get it. It is worth waiting for. Please don’t force it. Seasons will change with or without you. Don’t interfere. When the moment is right, you’ll know it. Rush it, and something is bound to get burned or not cooked to perfection.
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series on corporate partnership. Next week, get the perspective of three for-profit companies that teamed up with nonprofit partners.
Pete Kimbis is managing director of PKC, a boutique social good consulting firm based in North Bethesda, Maryland, that delivers technical and grant proposal writing, opportunity and solicitation analysis, legislative research, budgets, program analysis and evaluation, small business development, and acquisition support. Pete works with entrepreneurs and businesses based around innovative and inclusive missions that protect or improve lives or the environment.