Finding The Right Partner
In a meeting of the Health and Business Roundtable Indonesia (HBRI), representatives from corporations and nonprofits were asked to identify the key characteristics of a preferred partner. These are shown in the grid below. While companies and nonprofits had some characteristics they sought in the other that were not shared, most of these characteristics were considered important by both. These are therefore meaningful attributes to think about when considering any type of partnership, not just ones between companies and nonprofits.
Participants agreed that, as the underlying basis, partners should share values and concerns. As the partnership develops, they will also need to identify a shared goal and objectives. Preferred partners have a track record of positive impact, partnership experience, and work in a common geographic area. Both should have a reputation for integrity. Corporations found the quality of the work of the nonprofits most important while nonprofits found the corporation’s reputation for corporate social responsibility key. Other shared characteristics have as much to do with the organization’s own attributes: integrity, learning attitude, trustworthiness, and transparency, as with the attributes that will be specific to the partnership: responsiveness, flexibility, commitment, and cooperative attitude.
Two other attributes noted were the availability of concise information about the organization and the ability and willingness to help the partner build other relationships. The first of these is particularly important when the partners are from different sectors and need to be able to build and share internally an understanding of the other partners’ everyday activities and relevant projects. The second signifies that for both corporations and nonprofits there is a hope, or even expectation, that a partnership will lead to additional opportunities and relationships.
From the corporate perspective, there are some attributes of a partner that were identified as particularly important. Two of them, which are related, are that the nonprofits should have appropriate funding expectations and a willingness to start small. Another key characteristic, and not unrelated, is the absorptive capacity of the nonprofits.
From the nonprofit perspective, a company partner will provide them not only with resources but with access to their own target groups. For a health provider, this often begins with access to the workforce of the company. Nonprofits also find the reputation of the company very important. Another key element is that the partner does not impose onerous administrative procedures or policy requirements. And finally, nonprofits have recognized that it is very important for there to be high-level support within the company for the partnership.