CORPORATE partnerships are a permanent item on the agenda for both leading businesses and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations. For organisations like The Smith Family, we rely on corporate contributions to support core activities. The Smith Family currently manage income in excess of $11m annually from its corporate partners.

Over the years partnerships have changed, there has been a shift in expectations, with both parties looking to get more out of their investment.

Many will remember when partnerships were focused on events and attendance numbers, publications and their distribution, logo-placement and logo-size; and we used buzz words like 'exposure', 'profile' and 'reach'.

That world is long gone. These elements are still essential to our partnerships but the focus is now on new inclusions such as social responsibility, staff engagement and values alignment. Why are corporates looking for more than just exposure? The answer is because it is genuinely good for business.

A good corporate partnership will benefit your company both internally and externally. It should be a beneficial relationship that supports a range of strategic objectives associated with marketing strategies (external) and people and culture development (internal). A key objective for any corporate in a NFP partnership is for the affiliation to contribute to bottom line targets. In order to achieve this, both parties need to be transparent about partnership aspirations and limitations.

Corporate-NFP partnerships are like a marriage in that their success is dependent on open and frank communication. NFPs can no longer approach the partnership from a position of entitlement and subsequently a corporate will find that a partnership with a NFP based solely on a financial contribution is not sustainable. NFPs have a job to do and corporates need to turn a profit; building a mutually beneficial relationship around these realities needs to be explored.

The partnership needs to be win-win, with both parties operating on an equal basis of respect and dialogue. This allows charities to further their strategic direction, while offering clear opportunities for corporate stakeholder engagement and business benefits by reciprocation.

For businesses, a corporate partnership reflects positively on your company by increasing brand equity and credibility. It is well known Australians have a more positive image of a company if it supports a cause they care about; so leveraging your partnership can help build your profile.

Partnerships drive employee engagement and build meaningful networks between your employees creating teamwork, trust, and alignment with your company’s values. In this way it should help with both your company’s retention of staff and recruitment.

It will allow your marketing team to grow your company’s share of voice among your target market. It should provide a demonstrated point of difference from your competitors allowing the ability to execute cut-through marketing tactics.

If you are a customer-facing business, a good corporate partnership will also enhance your customer relationships and community engagement.

At The Smith Family we work closely with hundreds of companies – small, medium and large – to deliver our services and address challenges we’ve identified. Companies partner with us – through financial support, by sharing the expertise of their staff, by offering in-kind benefits – because, they too, recognise the importance of our work.

At a higher level, it makes sound business sense for corporate Australia to support The Smith Family to improve educational outcomes among disadvantaged children and young people because they know that a well-educated population is the key to our nation’s economic and social prosperity, now and in the future.

For a business to get the most out of their partnership with an NFP they need to be prepared to explore the opportunities that may exist, look at the external and internal benefits, keep the big picture in mind and, most importantly, have no hidden agendas – both parties must be open and frank about expectations and limitations.

Alan is the general manager for The Smith Family in Queensland. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, is an executive Member of the Fundraising Institute of Australia (EFIA) and is currently studying a Master’s Degree in Business (Not For Profit Philanthropic Studies) through QUT.

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