When creating a cross-sector partnership with a company a nonprofit should:
1. Seek business partners, not villains. Nonprofits often have a lot of experience developing lists of companies that may have caused a particular social problem, in order to apply public pressure on those companies to change. By focusing instead on those companies that have the resources to help solve the problem, a nonprofit can come up with a different and greatly expanded list of potential corporate partners.
2. Help companies set affirmative goals. Many companies are looking for ways to demonstrate their corporate responsibility by developing affirmative approaches to solving social problems. But they often lack the ability to understand fully the issues and to frame ambitious but realistic goals. Nonprofits often have a deeper understanding of the social problem, which enables them to help companies devise more comprehensive strategies and set more ambitious and attainable goals.
3. Ask companies for more than money. It is relatively easy for a nonprofit to target a company for a grant or a donation. It is much more difficult for a nonprofit to understand the full complement of resources that a company can bring to bear on solving a social problem. To understand those capabilities and know how to ask for them requires that nonprofit managers learn a new set of skills. Mastering this new approach will not be easy, but the potential power that can be deployed when business and nonprofits work together dwarfs what money alone can buy.
4. Share the halo with business. Many nonprofits are afraid to align themselves too closely with business partners because it may put their reputation at risk. Nonprofits need to overcome that fear, because the benefits that can be accrued from doing so far outweigh the risks. Nonprofits can look smart, creative, and efficient by tapping business capabilities, and companies can enhance their reputations by taking affirmative steps to solve social problems. It is a win-win solution, but only if nonprofits and businesses are willing to share with one another the halo effect that comes with success.