Welcome to the first module on building partnerships. In this section, we’ll outline the benefits and the risks of corporate partnerships, and give you a good way of evaluating your needs.
Grant funding is the bread and butter of many non-profits and it is often one of the best ways to fund program development when you’re starting out. However, there are very few, if any, foundations who want to fund your program indefinitely. There can be restrictions on funding, and a lot of reporting that needs to take place.
Because of this, many organizations turn to corporate funding. Here are a few common benefits of corporate funding partnerships:
But there is no such thing as free money. Each type of funding has costs and I’m not just talking about the expenses that sit on your balance sheet.
In the case of corporate funding there are three potential costs that you need to keep in mind:
3. Mission Drift: In a less public way, corporate funding, like any form of funding, can put pressure on your mission. If you are too opportunistic, you can fall into the trap of following the funding dollars, even if doing so doesn’t further the cause that made you want to start your organization in the first place.
If you do any advocacy work, you also need to think about how you might intentionally or unintentionally alter your message to please your funders.
Finally, if the company will sell more products by associating itself with your organization you want to make sure that activity isn’t jeopardizing the vision of a better world you are working to create.
To help prevent both mission drift and negative public perceptions we recommend that you work with your stakeholders to create a corporate screening policy.
A screening policy includes information about which corporate partners you'll work with, and under what conditions you will work with them - things like what industry they are a part of, conditions around their labor practices, or what influence they will have over your programs.
This policy can then guide future decisions about which companies to reach out to, helping to avoid problems in the future. You can download a sample corporate screening policy of an environmental NGO here.