Nonprofits / For-profits Partnerships

Non-profits and for-profits can achieve significant results together that are often impossible alone. And partnerships between the two can be smooth and mutually beneficial. Our experience has shown that they are a great tool for Social Entrepreneurship as long as the benefits to both are clearly understood and all obligations are adhered to. 

The benefits to for-profits organizations can range from added publicity to access to new, hard-to-reach, markets. Social benefit ventures can gain tools, resources and even skilled management assistance.  

In my own case, a partnership between my non-profit advocacy website and a for-profit video website gave me online video editing tools, bandwidth and server storage I could have never afforded. The FPO (a start-up) got tens of thousands of new members, and my site was able to achieve its social objective.

How should you proceed if you work for a social benefit venture?

•    Approach the FPO with a partnership arrangement that offers tangible benefits (not just "good PR"), i.e., 100,000 new web visitors or advertising in your newsletter. 

•    Ask the FPO to provide you with services or products that are part of its normal business.Resist the impulse to ask for cash – that is charity, not a partnership.

•    Involve technical staff early in the discussions to ensure that operational problems are taken care of in the agreement, rather than fought over later.

•    Write a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and send it back and forth for editing and changes. Make it as detailed as the project calls for.  And remember, it is not the final agreement that is important, it is the communication process that creates it.

•    Make sure that all stakeholders in both organizations sign off on the MOA –anyone who will be involved or impacted. Make sure you deal with non-stakeholders who may have negative opinions, so they don't sabotage the agreement.

•    Stay involved and keep the relationships strong. Don't sign the MOA and then turn it over to staff to execute. Stay in touch with the project and the leadership of the for-profit organization – you may want to work with them again.

I love to work with start-ups. New companies are often easier to deal with than large established firms. They are hungry, open to new ideas, and have yet to grow a bureaucracy that throws up roadblocks to partnerships. And start-ups often have new tools and products that entrepreneurial NPOs can put to use quickly to gain publicity and new grants.


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