Engaging Corporations - Some suggestions on how to engage corporations based on stories of network members

Definition of concepts, Framework presentation

Participants of the Hong Kong PLE expressed that the relationship building between associations and corporations is not only mutually beneficial but also cultivates shared values. This revolves around addressing the root causes of community concerns and helping corporations think strategically about putting CSR in the mainstream.

With shared values the foundation, the trust deficit between the social and corporate sectors is reduced. The two sectors are able to work on an agreed framework for action, during the course of which corporations are recognized and rewarded for their contributions and are motivated further by the ‘feel good factor.’ Positive results may be seen as follows:

  1. Boards and CEOs are interested to learn from social sector players and engage in discussions with them.
  2. The process of educating the Board, CEOs, Management Committee and other management team members moves forward.
  3. Access to champions and decision-makers in the organisation is established.
  4. The CEO has an opportunity to champion CSR and sustainability.
  5. The engagement of all employees begins or intensifies.
  6. Corporations take steps to educate their shareholders about giving.
  7. Communication and advocacy are shared by the association and the corporation through open and extensive exchanges, with a focus on tangible problems.
  8. Business schools offer courses on philanthropy and strategic giving.

Participants of the Bratislava PLE expressed that to ‘engage corporations’ is to create and build partnerships characterized by:

  1. Participation in planning, analysis of each others‘ needs and expectations, evaluation, and taking next steps. This puts emphasis on going beyond the financial gift.
  2. Trust building.
  3. Corporations actively participating in development through various ways. Corporations ask what can we do for society, (a concrete project) instead of why must we get involved?

"Creating partnerships is about building trust. Once corporations actively participate, they're asking what they can do for society, instead of why they must get involved.”

Prior to starting the relationship, the association needs to know what is expected of them. In addition to maintaining good contacts, the following is required:

  1. An understanding of society‘s needs vis-à-vis business needs and expectations of involvement.
  2. An understanding of the corporate perspective (i.e. the company mission and vision).
  3. The ability to formulate a strategy to persuade the company to commit to sustainable development (i.e. corporate foundations as vehicles for giving).
  4. A knowledge of best practices.
Once the relationship is established, continuous engagement aims to unite and direct business forces into the philanthropy development sphere. Systematic work requires association staff to have the skills, knowledge, know-how, and capacity to engage with corporations, including experience in making deals, writing contracts, assessing risks, and monitoring processes. Likewise, the association or support organisation should also bear in mind that the corporation needs the expertise, knowledge and reliability they can offer. Communication is key: strong, clear and open communication will reveal how the relationship can benefit both sectors.