More than Just a Handshake: How Corporate Partners Are Rolling Up Their Sleeves and Making an Impact

More than Just a Handshake: How Corporate Partners Are Rolling Up Their Sleeves and Making an Impact

The rise of partnerships between INGOs and corporations is now an established phenomenon.  It’s common knowledge that promoting relationships between business and development and relief organizations holds extraordinary value for the world’s poorest families.  But when do these mash-ups really work and when are they just a lot of time and money spent with little actual value for beneficiaries? 

In the past, charities approached corporations for a handshake and a check—but now, successful partnerships do much more.  Shared value requires a real ability to deliver positive change for marginalized people plus clearly defined business benefit.  And to make this hard work worthwhile, the corporate partner must commit significant resources.  Not just cash—true partnership demands financial commitments as well as technical, product-oriented, and human capital, invested by both the corporate entity and the INGO. 

Companies who bring their own skills and expertise to the partnership have the power to make transformative change. These multi-layered and visionary partnerships are significantly harder to establish and maintain than a traditional donation or grant relationship with a donor (the bread and butter for most INGOs) but they have the greatest chance at success.  Thus the scale of the relationship across several aspects of a business is important to its success.  It also helps to have a long-term perspective and agree on the kind of future the partners want to build together.

Here are a few examples from Save the Children’s experience that strike the right balance: 

Accenture – Thinking Big

In 2009, Accenture launched its Skills to Succeed initiative to provide employment-focused skills training to youth across the globe. It draws on one of Accenture’s core competencies—training talent—to help address the need for skills that open doors to employment.  So far, Accenture has provided training to 320,000 people, and are on the way to reaching their goal of equipping 500,000 people by 2015. Save the Children is supporting this, and we are working together to deliver these skills in Asia and the Middle East. Through a focused and ambitious agenda across multiple pillars of activity we are: 

  • Providing innovative program support in multiple-countries including Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam and more;

  • Running research and development activities in Indonesia, where we are rigorously testing components of the pilot project and introducing ICT solutions to scale our program responses, underpinning the case for Save the Children’s unique program approach; and

  • Helping to engage employees in fundraising, pro-bono consulting and volunteering

In addition, together we’re using our experience to engage global and national stakeholders in conversations about solutions to youth-based employment challenges.  We will take what we learn as partners to inform further Skills to Succeed initiative scale-up in future years and continue to build our partnership into 2014 and beyond.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters – Good for Families, Good for Business

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) knows that what’s good for families is good for business. Their commitment to social responsibility ranges across all areas of its operations, not only the sale of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee. The company has contributed over $7 million to Save the Children’s food security programs in Indonesia and five countries in Latin America—specifically during severe seasonal food shortages typically faced by farmers, and very common among coffee growers.

When farmers can take care of their own families, they are more likely to provide quality care for their coffee plants—so GMCR works with Save the Children to focus on hunger in coffee-growing families year-round and especially to prepare for the lean months, after coffee crops are harvested and before the next crop is ready:

  • Together, we work with coffee co-ops in GMCR’s supply chain to ensure the resiliency of households and provide a direct overlap between program beneficiaries and the company’s value chain;

  • We deliver income alternatives, improved agriculture techniques  to increase yield and reduce labor, diversify home gardens to grow other nutritious foods, and introduce food storage techniques so food can be prepared and stored for the lean months to protect children from malnourishment;

  • Our programs often provide trainings to reduce the use of chemicals and promote practices that help protect the environment, a major benefit to the company’s ultimate product.  

As shown in this video, the entire specialty coffee sector has gained awareness of this issue, and they are seeing it as a key sectorial responsibility—as well as a business driver to ensure the supply of high quality coffee beans.

These partnerships are excellent examples of delivering real value to the poor and marginalized—in our case children or youth—and a clear business growth objective, whether driving consumer sales, introducing product to emerging markets, or investing in future employees or customers in a critical growth region. 

It’s no longer simply a handshake-and-check world, and that’s a good thing for businesses and people in need.  If business can do well while doing good, like the partnerships shown here, everybody wins—including the children who will build that better future we seek.

Watch Carolyn Miles discuss the power of partnerships 

Carolyn Miles is president and chief executive officer of Save the Children. Save the Children is the leading independent organization inspiring breakthroughs in how the world treats children, achieving immediate and lasting change in their lives. The global Save the Children movement currently serves over 125 million children in the US and in 120 countries. 

FSG recently published a report exploring new approaches that will help INGOs strengthen their operations and transform the way they create impact. Learn more at


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