September 20 2021
We can’t save everybody. We can’t find solutions for all the world’s problems as we don’t have unlimited resources. But it is our responsibility – as a company or as a brand – to do our best and have a positive social impact, now and in the future, in perfect alignment with our purpose. And this involves being aware of all the resources we can invest (money, time, knowledge, products, connections) or we can attract (from third parties – partners, other companies, even competitors) and team up with the most suitable partner(s) from the NGO environment. And build together a true partnership – based on mutual trust and respect.
Once a commitment is made, the questions begin to flow. Which criteria should we take into consideration when choosing the best NGO? International or rather local? ”The bigger the better”, or should one choose smaller NGOs, more determined and involved? Traditional – reputed (but sometimes slower) organizations or rather newer-entries, with fresh visions and energy? How to select the causes to support?
There is no right or wrong option, it all depends on your objectives and needs. Besides a good reputation, which of course is important, there are some general principles one should ponder when selecting a non-governmental partner.
Before choosing the NGO, it is recommended to have clarity about the social impact objectives, priority beneficiaries, maybe there is a specific location where you would like to engage or some specific needs you need to address. These are all important topics, on which all important stakeholders should be on the same page, from top management and shareholders to consumers. Otherwise, the process of choosing an NGO will be difficult, with wasted resources of time and money and smaller chances for success. Unfortunately, too often the decision is left in the hands of the CEO/GM and too rarely are the employees and consumers consulted.
There is rising pressure for openness, accountability and transparency regarding companies, but it’s the same situation for non-profit organizations; they must prove what they say is what they do. Similar to corporations and governments, NGOs are not infallible, so one thing everyone considering collaboration should do is carefully read annual reports. Are they easily available, is the information accurate, is the report inspiring?
Of course, we all want to work with some of the best-known NGOs, with an attractive communication and a constant media presence. But more important is to work with the NGO which has the most relevant and impactful activity that best suits your social purpose. Do they have a long-term vision towards the common cause? Are they experienced in the specific field? Can they enrich our perspective on the cause we target?
Check what other companies the desired NGOs have as partners, see if you can find any connection in your professional and personal networks and ask for references. A simple discussion might be enlightening.
A direct contact might help you make the decision – which of them do you have the best chemistry with? Who inspired you the most? Which of the three options seems more trustful? Or maybe you decide to choose all three or the first two options – each one for a different objective or for a specific area of expertise! Bringing various resources around a bigger purpose might be the right solution.
If possible, don’t start with high stakes projects, but with smaller pilot initiatives – just to see how things work out.
Choosing the right NGO(s) for your company or your brand is as important as choosing the right business partners. But this is just the first step – the challenge continues after you start building and maintaining a good, long term, win-win relationship, which has the power to attain a brand’s social impact goal.