Q: What are some good ways to find corporations who are interested in becoming partners with nonprofits?

Hussein Farah, Founder & executive director

New Vision Foundation

A: Strong relationships between nonprofit organizations and corporate partners have been a hallmark of the social fabric of the Twin Cities for decades. The Minnesota Keystone Program, established in 1976 and administered by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, pays tribute to these links and is a source for information on nonprofit/corporate partnerships.

These partnerships have been built in a number of interrelated ways. First, the nonprofit organization has to have a mission that both provides a distinctive value to its community and one that relates to the values of a corporate partner. The mission has to be relevant to the social conditions of the community at large and should help identify the corporate partner as a significant contributor to the well-being of the community. Second, the leadership of the nonprofit organization should communicate the mission in a compelling manner that highlights its value to its potential corporate partners. There must be a strong marketing effort from the people who run the nonprofit that embodies the mission and represents sound business acumen. Third, the nonprofit organization should build a board that is able to assist the organization in the dissemination of its value proposition on a peer-to-peer basis.

Board assistance can be a very powerful tool in building partnerships. Nonprofits, especially community-based organizations, should expand their board membership to include those with ties to potential business partnerships. In turn, these board members can be in a good place to negotiate terms of the partnership. It is important to know what the partnership entails. The nonprofit needs to be clear in what it is looking for, including operating funds, program sponsorship, in-kind services, consulting guidance, etc. The corporate partner needs to know what resource commitments are expected.

Building relationships takes time and effort, but this is a very receptive community where the partnerships will pay off in the long run.

Jack Militello is a professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.