The notion of “partnership” is central to the corporate citizenship agenda. Partnerships can serve as strong, unifying forces, gathering the complementary skills and inputs of the public sector, the private sector, and civil society in order to tackle complex social and environmental problems. Partnerships draw diverse resources together and, therefore, are a means to get things done that individual organizations cannot achieve alone.
While there are a number of strategic business advantages to partnerships, they do not exist in a one-size-fits-all model. Modern corporate community partnerships span a variety of sectors, geographic areas, and objectives and go beyond the traditional relationships often involved in grant-making or volunteer programming. Business objectives now include advancing corporate citizenship strategy and fostering improved relationships with government ministries and NGOs. Building committed and successful relationships that lead to strategic partnerships is vital for both business environment and corporate social responsibility performance.
Partnerships as a Business Advantage
Companies are facing new demands to engage in public-private partnerships and are under growing pressures to be accountable to a full range of stakeholders, including employees, consumers, suppliers, local communities, policymakers, and society at large. According to a 2010 Nonprofit Marketing Trend Tracker survey, more than 60 percent of respondents indicated that they actively seek partnership details before supporting a cause and 75 percent of American consumers reported that they wanted to hear about the results of a partnership, including the effect on the social issue or money raised for the cause. A 2011 Global CR Opportunity study found that 91 percent of the respondents believe companies should develop partnerships. Such data suggests that consumers not only want to hear about the strategic partnerships that companies have formed with community-based organizations, but are also interested in the quality and specific facts about those partnerships.
Ultimately, partnerships between community-based organizations and companies make good business sense, addressing pressure from important stakeholders like consumers and investors. Partnerships create an empowering environment that addresses social issues while bringing corporate citizenship to the forefront of the business. When carried out properly, a company’s community investment plan can bring with it significant business benefits by building brand recognition and sales promotion, improving staff morale and professional development opportunities, and fostering good will with community members.
As companies consider strategic partnerships with community-based organizations, they can look to companies like Pitney-Bowes and their long-time relationship with NFTE, as well as Edison International and their strategic partnership with the American Red Cross. Both organizations have entered into rich and dynamic partnerships with non-profit organizations and found the results to be mutually beneficial and rewarding.
Pitney Bowes and NFTE
A leader in innovative technology, Pitney Bowes had long been committed to community involvement. As their corporate social responsibility projects developed, Pitney Bowes organized their philanthropic goals into two main focal areas: literacy and education. Guided by this new vision for their community efforts, Pitney Bowes recognized a potential partner in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), who approached them to support their inventive approach to education and student retention.
Through the use of experiential learning, NFTE teaches high school students the basics of business and entrepreneurship. Students create real business plans and benefit from teachers, guest mentors, and the unique experiential education curriculum. Since the beginning of the organization, NFTE has served 500,000 students worldwide.
Seeing a fellow innovator with matching overarching goals for the global community, Pitney Bowes entered (slowly at first) into a strong partnership with NFTE. Through their partnership, Pitney Bowes provides employee volunteers to work with youth learning about entrepreneurship. In turn, these employees gain the professional development experience of mentorship and meaningful community engagement. Importantly, Pitney Bowes continues to act on their commitment to education and literacy, and through their financial support of NFTE, help affect change in the lives of half a million young people.
Edison International and the American Red Cross
Edison International, a century-old organization, has long held a commitment to community involvement and philanthropic activities. Similar to Pitney Bowes, Edison International has clear focus areas for their social responsibility activities---STEM education, the environment, public safety, and civic engagement. As an electric company with employees that work physically in the community—Edison International holds their community relationships as an integral part of their work. With a strong presence in southern California, a region prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, Edison International has committed to disaster preparedness and disaster relief work.
Edison International found a strong partner in the American Red Cross to further this work. The American Red Cross runs global operations with the explicit goal of reducing suffering in emergency situations. Committing a $1.5 million investment, Edison International has crafted a strategic relationship with American Red Cross in which both parties set advantageous goals and track the progress of those goals. As a result, a number of Edison International employees are train in key, disaster relief skills, better preparing them for involvement in the public safety of their communities.
True partnerships between corporations and community based organizations engage in long-term relationship building, joint planning and goal setting, joint implementation, mutual accountability, and mutual "win-win" outcomes. Pitney Bowes and Edison International demonstrate the incredible outcomes that partnerships can create. Furthermore, the two companies demonstrate how community partners can help a company fulfill its philanthropic mission and, together, have a greater impact on pervasive social issues.
Join us to hear how you can identify partnerships that support your business and citizenship strategic goals on June 4, 2014 at 12pm ET. Click here to sign up for the webinar.