Unique community–business partnerships need unique partnership models. There are a number of models to choose from, so pick one that can be tailored to your needs.
It is important to choose a community–business partnership model that’s a good fit for your organisation and your prospective partner. Having the right model in place can be crucial to ensuring the success of your partnership.
There are many models to choose from and thousands of possible variations. Here are some you might like to consider.
Volunteerism is a popular partnership tool, and one that not-for-profit groups should consider if they have some work they want to get done, but are short on numbers.
Having a business’s staff assist your organisation short-term or long-term can provide an influx of people power, knowledge, numbers and expertise.
Many businesses encourage volunteer programs, believing business volunteerism can improve staff morale, productivity and loyalty, as well as benefit the community and provide it with good publicity through association with beneficial community efforts.
Mentoring is a specialised form of skilled volunteering, where a mentor serves as a teacher and provides opportunities for professional development, growth and support to those with less experience.
A business employee could mentor one of your staff members, or even an individual served by your organisation.
Business as collection point
Apart from increasing the amount of goods or money your not-for-profit group receives, having a business partner as a collection point for money or goods can save you space (especially if the goods are bulky) and can dramatically increase your profile – particularly if the business being used as a collection point is one with a lot of customer or client traffic.
Examples include having a collection tin or collection point for your group in your business partner's store, either year-round or at certain times of year (for example, a giving or wishing tree at Christmas).
This model is suitable for not-for-profits in need of goods, services or resources such as computers, items for auction, books or lawn mowing.
These sorts of partnership models are often more attractive to small to medium-sized businesses – which may not have “cash on hand'' but have other resources to share.
Pro bono or discounted services and products
Business’s staff may be able to offer your group valuable skills, knowledge or expertise – such as accountancy or legal advice – for free or at least at a heavily discounted price.
Sponsorship is an option for groups that can give reasonable exposure to a business partner in return for money or in-kind support.
For example, sponsors’ logos on sports uniforms, naming rights for an event, or sponsoring projects or publications.
Contributing premises or infrastructure
Many not-for-profits lack the space to hold meetings or store goods; they may even be in need of general office space.
Having a permanent home base can also increase your group’s standing in the local area.
A local business may be able to contribute much-needed space and infrastructure.
Employment and work experience
Not-for-profit groups wishing to add to their knowledge or experience base can seek a partnership based on their members gaining work experience with their business partner.
You may be able to offer your business partner advice on how to cater for its employees or increase diversity.
For example, an organisation that represents young, indigenous or disabled people could offer advice and guidance to a business on how it could legitimately look at employing people from these sectors in the future. This benefits those in the community the group represents by enhancing their employment opportunities, and it also benefits the wider community.
Scholarships and Awards
Establishing a scholarship or award is a good way to encourage community participation in activities that reflect your organisation’s aims or philosophies.
Not-for-profits and business groups can offer scholarships or awards in partnership to enable people in the community to further their studies, conduct research, or pursue other endeavours they would not otherwise be able to afford.
In using this partnership model, business and community group partners need to believe strongly in the common theme that forms the basis of that scholarship or award.
This model is suitable for a not-for-profit that needs some cash or monetary support to help it complete a project or aid its operation.
Monetary donations can take many forms in a community–business partnership, including one-off donations from the business, business employee giving schemes, donations to particular programs or projects, or even staff fundraisers.
While one-off donations do not strictly constitute partnerships, they can be part of a wider partnership, or the beginning of one.
Advanced partnerships involve a degree of integration between not-for-profit organisations and their business partners. Usually they involve working together on new projects to achieve particular social or environmental outcomes.
OUR TIP: Build a model based on your goals. Partnerships can take many forms, so make sure you know what you want to get from yours.