Building effective partnerships that deliver results

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In my experience as director of communications for a national voluntary health organization, corporate/nonprofit partnerships were essential for helping the organization pursue its mission and thrive financially. The best partners respected the organization's vision and were willing to devote technology, expertise and financial resources to make a partnership successful.  In return, these partnerships provided a similar value to companies looking to remain competitive and engaged with their target audiences. It was clear that companies looked for nonprofit partners that have a proven record of partnering, smart and stable leadership, financial stability and a strong connection to their core constituency.

In navigating these partnerships, I gathered the following tips that help keep a partnership effective and successful:
  1. Do select a partner whose interests are aligned.  
  2. Do recognize the value that each partner brings to the table. While the company may assume the financial burden, it does not necessarily assume all the risk.
  3. Don't build a partnership on a handshake alone. Both parties will invest resources, whether it is expertise, reputation, time or money; therefore, both parties need to be clear about expectations for ROI and desired outcomes. Doing so ensures that each partner is truly vested and accountable for the success of the partnership.
  4. Do play an active role in implementing the partnership. Working directly with the company's and nonprofit's decision makers and maintaining open and respectful communications will yield greater momentum toward achieving your goals and help minimize setbacks.
  5. Don't lose sight of the need for fair balance and transparency.  
  6. Do promote your partnership. Research shows that the public widely embraces companies who partner for a cause.
  7. Do consider engaging a third-party to help facilitate the partnership.
Building a successful business partnership is not an exact science, but when companies and nonprofits partner in ways that help companies achieve their business goals and nonprofits advance their mission, they connect with their target audiences and impact their mutual cause for improving health.

Molly Carey Poarch is account director at Spectrum

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