What to look for in a not-for-profit partner?

If you are looking to give to charity and incorporate meaning into your business, you are probably also thinking about who you should partner with in your endeavours.

Oftentimes small businesses that don’t have the resources for a large scale social engagement may prefer to handle this internally but for larger businesses that engage in philanthropy on a larger scale, having a not-for-profit partner is a must for several reasons.

Firstly, a not-for-profit partner can provide you with the much needed expertise and insight into the social problem you are looking to tackle.  Secondly, they can help take some of the logistics and organisational work that you don’t need to be worrying about off your hands.

If you are looking for an organisation to partner with in your philanthropic endeavours the first and most important requirement is that they become a true partner. But there’s quite a few other must have’s for a not-for-profit to qualify as a good one.

Here’s some of them:

Vision

Similar to any for-profit organisation, not-for-profits need a constant inflow of resources to be able to budget in certain expenses and take certain steps. In other words, they need to be able to plan in order to achieve long-term goals and long-term results. Sadly, many of the not-for-profit organisations have an inconsistent level of financial support which makes it hard for them to have a long term-vision. Consequently, many of them end up engaging in separate initiatives and campaigns that have little long term effect in terms of alleviating the social problem they are tackling.  Typically they end up simply dealing with the symptoms of the social problem. Without a bigger picture in mind, an organisation can rarely achieve much in the long run. If you are truly invested and inspired to make a difference, you need a partner to share your enthusiasm and keep you motivated. You need a partner with a vision.

Expertise

This is common sense really but if you want to be effective in your endeavours, you need a partner who has experience with and understanding of the social issue at hand and even more so of the group you would like to help. Whether your target group is the homeless, single mothers, underprivileged families, orphans or whomever it may be – you need somebody who understands the source of the issue and the pains and the struggles of the group. This means that your partner would have a good idea of what actions and strategies would actually help. Their insight should be able to steer you in the right direction in terms of approach.

Willingness to be a partner

This is what I mentioned in the beginning and it may well be the most important requirement. Traditionally tackling social problems has been looked at as the domain of charity and not-for-profit organisations. Things are changing and with the rise of social entrepreneurs and B-corporations the boundaries between the purposes of business and the not-for-profit sector are slowly disappearing. However, quite a few not-for-profit organisations are still with the mindset that social change is their job and field of expertise and business’ role is limited to providing financial support. Thus you will find that some not-for-profits reluctant to truly partner with you and work side by side with you providing guidance and support to help you make an impact through your business. You need a partner who is willing to share their experience, take your ideas and work with you to help you put together an effective, sustainable social engagement plan.

Ability to measure results

Being able to measure the results from your efforts is oftentimes challenging, especially with social engagement where you have direct impact and often knock on effects too. It may not always be straightforward to know how many people you’ve helped or how much you’ve helped them but it is key. You need to know what works and what doesn’t so you are able to adjust. With this in mind, it is absolutely essential that your not-for-profit partner has a measurement system in place for their own effort. Not having one would be a red flag as it essentially means they have no actual track record of results.  This is not to say that you should use their measurement system but it increases the chances of them being able to help you put together one suitable for you. If they have the knowledge and experience with the social problem you would like to take on, they would have an insight as to what needs measuring and how to best measure it.

Passion

Needless to explain this one but just as a reminder – you need somebody passionate about your social mission. Your partner needs to be as excited about your cause as you are to keep you motivated and engaged. This being said, it is sometimes better to partner smaller not-for-profit organisations that have a specific focus and work for a cause that is really dear to their heart rather than a larger one working towards different causes but not as passionate about any one of them, as the people you will likely be dealing with will not be on the front-line of the problem.

If you would like to know more about good not-for-profit partners and how to put together a healthy, sustainable social engagement program, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As a corporate philanthropy consultant with many years of business coaching experience, I can help you integrate meaning and purpose into your business. More importantly I can help you make the transition to for-profit and purpose smooth. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.

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