University Study: 5 Musts For Corporate Partnerships

Sharing a common cause, understanding problems and needs in communities, low overhead costs, transparency and timely feedback, and integration of employee volunteer activities are among the things that lead to a successful long-term corporate partnership for nonprofits.

Xiaonan (Coco) Kou suggested those factors from a case study of a partnership between a local nonprofit in China and a U.S. company that made its first grant in 2006. The case study was part of a session, “Giving Beyond Borders: A Study of Global Giving by U.S. Corporations,” during the 26th annual symposium at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, “Taking Fundraising Seriously Timeless Values in a World of Change.”

Kou, a research project coordinator and doctoral candidate at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, suggested giving both partners opportunities to learn and grow first, suggested several lessons learned from the study:

  • Obtain information of the organization from local media or online coverage (beyond the organization’s website);
  • Request grant proposals with specific implementation plans to investigate organizational capacity;
  • Conduct site visits to understand problems and feasibility of proposed programs;
  • Start with small grants;
  • Request timely feedback; and,
  • Engage local employees in program implementation and reporting.

What influences foreign corporations in their global giving? Among 27 companies in the survey, by far the leading factor were the needs in local communities (78 percent). Among other leading host country factors were:

  • Business operation/financial performance in a host country, 52 percent;
  • Capacity/accountability of local nonprofits, 48 percent;
  • Preferences of local employees, 41 percent;
  • Preferences of local executives, 33 percent;
  • Relationship with local government, 22 percent;
  • Customer relations in a host country, 22 percent; and,
  • Economic, political/regulatory environment in a host country, 19 percent