Stronger together. It’s been the mantra for 2020. Now the world is collectively exhaling at the result of the US election and hoping that unity prevails. Stronger together is about collective action to achieve real impact. Impact that wouldn’t be possible by yourself.
When I worked in Japan some years ago, I visited the beautiful mediaeval fortress of Nijo Castle in Kyoto. In the reign of the Shoguns the castle was once besieged by samurai warriors. The women of the castle created a unique solution to help them escape by scaling the palace walls in darkness. They cut off their long hair and wove it together into one single, unbreakable rope. A single human hair is fragile and pliable, but many hairs woven together are strong enough to pull an ocean liner.
Partnerships with the corporate sector don’t just make non-profits stronger. If it’s only about exchanging resources or cash, then charities would have wiped out homelessness, poverty, and disease a long time ago. Partnerships create better solutions and greater impact for the tough societal problems that we’d all like to solve. That means true collaboration to help corporates and non-profits become stronger, together.
I’ve missed live music during our long lockdown. Hearing a stadium full of people sing their favourite number together is much more thrilling than me singing solo in the shower. In the same way, partnerships can amplify the voice of the charity and make a bigger impact on an urgent issue. The Marriage Equality campaign in Australia successfully leveraged the voices of 600 corporates from Qantas to AirBnB, to build momentum for a Yes vote. Ben and Jerry’s has been vocal in their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Corporates can be valuable allies and advocates using their voices to amplify messages and highlight important issues.
The best solutions come from corporates and non-profits aligning the core of their businesses and finding new ways to create better practices. Country Road is partnering with Landcare to regenerate farmlands and increase biodiversity in cotton growing regions. By restoring natural ecosystems, Country Road and Landcare will ensure sustainable management of the landscape and better results for the cotton that goes into Country Road clothing.
Health and wellbeing have been high priorities this year. Black Dog, Beyond Blue and headspace have been providing valuable support and expertise on mental health to corporates for their staff and customers. The positive impact on everyone’s health has been much greater through partnerships that care about people.
Partnerships allow non-profits to expand their networks and reach a corporate’s audiences. Ovarian Cancer Australia’s partnership with Pacific Magazines allows them to leverage their network of magazine readers to provide important health information. Titles such as Women’s Weekly, Marie Claire and New Idea are the ideal conduit to the target demographic of women vulnerable to ovarian cancer. In turn, Pacific Magazines builds trust and engagement with their networks by providing relevant, engaging and valuable content.
Partnerships provide the opportunity to solve society’s thorny issues together. US Democrats mobilised grassroots support and built a strong coalition to generate 74 million votes (and counting). If the new president elect can reach across the divide and bring opposing sides together, then it will make a stronger society for everyone. Your non-profit may view corporates as being on the other side of the fence. But if you tear down the fence and invite them in, you’ll find more in common than you expected. Then who knows what you can achieve together.
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