What makes a nonprofit – corporate partnership likely to fail? These are our six hallmarks of one that may be going downhill quickly.
- The nonprofit is not seen as an equal partner, but rather a ‘charity’. This may translate as a second thought in a meeting where the nonprofit should really be present as an engaged partner or where business wants the nonprofit to ‘take whatever is left’, be grateful for whatever is offered and presumes that ‘anything is better than nothing’ for the nonprofit. Without including the nonprofit strategically, the value of the partnership won’t be as strong as its potential.
- The corporation only wants to offer a cause marketing opportunity for the nonprofit and thus doesn’t engage any of the other platforms or resources it has to offer in the partnership. This leaves their communications platforms on the table, doesn’t engage employees, and leaves out valuable resources that the nonprofit could use, like access to meeting space and employee engagement opportunities, for example.
- The nonprofit is chasing dollars and not asking for other types of support when approaching corporations. This shortsighted approach shortchanges both partners. Even though nonprofits often struggle to meet budget goals, partnerships that include employee participation through lunch and learns or board leadership, or even co-communication efforts like a cobranded presence at events or on a product, each provide value to the nonprofit that shouldn’t be dismissed. Often non-monetary components still lead to indirect or direct financial reward for the nonprofit in the future.
- The partnership lacks shared (and measureable, tracked) goals and thus neither party has a vested interest in its success (nor is it analytically evaluated and improved when necessary). These partnerships quickly fizzle as one-time partnerships or otherwise limited investments and generally serve to only ‘check the box’.
- There are unclear expectations. So frequently, one party expects that the other will do certain things as a part of the partnership. For example, the business expects the nonprofit to create a special employee engagement program. When this isn’t clearly delineated in the original partnership, there is no way for the business to understand the many challenges this could present for the nonprofit. Unclear expectations lead to resentment, misunderstandings, and quickly into full partnership failure.
- Lastly, the partnership is created out of the marketing department, human resources, or communications department and thus the partnership lacks senior executive buy in. How can a partner grow for the whole company if it’s limited by the resources of one department? How can a partnership evolve into different channels of opportunity if it’s boxed into one functionality? A real partnership either starts at the top or at the very least has full support of the C- Suite and across departments who work collaboratively to execute.
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