07 May 2013

The Evolution of NPO – Business Collaboration

Three Stages of Strategic Partnership


Over the past few years the realization that strong collaboration between NPOs and businesses is essential has become more and more widespread. This can partially be attributed to the fact that society is becoming increasingly interdependent. That is to say, the collaboration between NPOs, corporations and governments has intensified and this trend is currently perpetuating. At the same time, governments are often faced with forced privatizations and downsizing due to fiscal pressures. Hence, more and more activities are outsourced from the public to the private sector and this demands closer NPO – business collaboration. Hence, the search for more effective organizational approaches is bringing NPOs and businesses together. This increased collaboration can be categorized into three different stages: the philanthropic, transactional, and integrative stage.


Currently, most NPO – business relationships are still in the first philanthropic stage. In this stage the nature of the relationship is largely that of charitable donor and recipient. This implies that the level of engagement between the two parties is still relatively low and that the number of activities is rather small. Although most current partnerships can be categorized as philanthropic, increasing numbers are moving towards the next level, that of the transactional stage. In this stage there are explicit resource exchanges focused on specific activities, such as events sponsorships and cause-related marketing. This renders the level of engagement significantly higher and ensures a more common mission objective. The final stage, that of integrative collaboration, implies that the missions, people and activities of the two parties begin to merge into extensive collective action and organizational integration. This stage can be compared to a joint venture and represents the highest strategic level of collaboration. Although not many relationships between NPOs and businesses can currently be categorized this way, a lot of strategic partnerships have stated that this stage would be most beneficial and that they are interested in exploring the possibilities.

i-kifu currently has strategic partnerships with 7 corporations, which would currently be classified as the first philanthropic stage. That is to say, strategic cooperation between i-kifu and its partners is still in the initial stage and the magnitude of shared resources is not that extensive. This renders the level of engagement relatively low, which means that there are still of lot of opportunities for i-kifu to extend its partnerships with corporations. If i-kifu were to pursue a more integrative approach with its sponsoring corporations, the shared resources could potentially render higher effectiveness in terms of shared mission objectives. The challenge is to build a framework with corporations from which a common mission can be formed. If i-kifu and the its affiliated corporations were to find clear shared objectives, the results of their contributions to the social good are likely to have a much larger positive impact.

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