How to Partner with Non-Profits

Relationship Governance for Very Different Partners: the Corporation-Non-Profit Case

Organizations increasingly form relationships with partners that have goals, values or operating cultures different to their own. These relationships have significant potential to generate innovative products or services and increase opportunities for service delivery. While they can provide greater access to resources, infrastructure or stakeholders, they can struggle with collaboration. Such partnerships may also encounter differences in the role of governance mechanisms such as trust and commitment. Only limited research however has addressed the governance implications of such relationships. We compared managers' perspectives on relationship governance mechanisms for 267 nonprofits and 276 corporations involved in corporate-nonprofit relationships. We found that ‘fit’ - compatibility and complementarity - was important to performance in such relationships. We found also however that nonprofits valued the role of trust in these relationships significantly more than corporations. The findings suggest potential for significant success in these types of relationships but also possible complications from differences of opinion as to how they should be governed. While relationships between very different partners can succeed, they should remain cognizant of differences in each partner's expectations for relationship governance and its role in relationship performance.

Together and Apart: Exploring Structure of the Corporate-NPO Relationship

Financially significant relationships between corporations and non-profit organizations (NPOs) have increased in recent years. NPOs offer access to interests and ideologies that are lacking within most for-profit organizations. These partnerships form a unique bridge between for-profit and non-profit goals and offer significant potential to produce innovative ways of “doing business by doing good.” Exploration of the structural implications of these relationships, however, has been limited. The potential for ideological imbalance in these relationships, particularly for the NPO, has been poorly described. This research explores the structure of Corporate–NPO relationships from the NPO's perspective under high pressure conditions such as large relational investments or negative pressure from stakeholders. Using data collected from 20 NPOs in Australia, we identified the use by NPOs of both formal and informal governance mechanisms within their partnerships. These mechanisms acted to align and defend important goals of the NPO. They allowed the NPO and their corporate partners to be simultaneously “together and apart.” This research offers important insight toward the study of cross-sector relationships and the role of governance mechanisms.

Whilst there is a large body of literature documenting the benefits and models of cross-sector collaboration in operational responses to trafficking and slavery, there is almost no literature to guide corporate responses. The TSRG is building on the above research to explore and document best practice models for corporate-NPO collaboration within the context of modern slavery legislation. More information is forthcoming.