Donations in-cash and in-kind are always welcomed by NGOs, but sometimes businesses and NGOs see ways to create impact together. If they are pursuing similar targets and can bring complementary skills and assets to resolving major challenges, it makes perfect sense for them to form a partnership. Some business/NGO partnerships are maintained for many years. 

3 min read | Last updated 28 October 2020

In a survey of businesses that engage with NGOs, 74% said that the reason for the partnership was to help them problem solve a core sustainability issue. Almost all companies (92%) have found that their competencies and assets have far greater impact on the work of their NGO partner than purely philanthropic support, helping the NGO achieve its strategic mission.

The benefits to a business are multiple: networking and building connections, increased legitimacy with other sectors, reputational benefits among stakeholders, knowledge and capacity building, innovative thinking, and employee morale and retention (The Partnering Initiative / UN DESA, 2018 (pdf)).

“Partnerships have become more strategically important, increasingly sophisticated, fueled by innovation, and are deemed to secure greater value for the companies and non-profits involved – and for society”

C&E Advisory, 2019 (pdf)

Some NGOs maintain complete independence in order to carry out their work with impartiality, eg Amnesty International, but others regularly form partnerships. Reasons for doing so can be to help a business adopt practices that support sustainable development and / or to gain access to a business’s resources to achieve the NGO’s own mission.

Examples of CSOs that work extensively with the business sector include:

Example: GSK and Save the Children

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Save the Children have been working together since 2013. The relationship between the two organisations already existed – GSK provided funding to Save the Children and Save the Children provided training to GSK – but they felt they could achieve more together, sharing expertise, resources, reach and influence to tackle some of the leading causes of childhood deaths. Their partnership goal is to save a million children’s lives, with signature programmes operating in Kenya and DRC.

GSK developed chlorhexidine (CHX), a sachet of gel formulated from a mouthwash antiseptic, to treat umbilical cords for the prevention of neonatal sepsis. CHX is one of the WHO’s Essential Medicines and GSK has committed to sharing the formulation with other manufacturers and making the medicine available on a ‘not-for-profit’ pricing basis. This programme has saved more than 30,000 newborns in Kenya.

The partnership works together to advocate for universal health coverage (UHC), toward SDG 3 target 3.8 (everyone should be entitled to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay for it). In DRC, they are working with the government and communities to deliver an integrated package of essential services for newborn, maternal and child health, strengthening existing systems and improving healthcare access.

How the partnership works:

Overview of progress by 2018:

Example: Aviva and British Red Cross

Multinational insurance company Aviva and humanitarian NGO British Red Cross have been working together since 2015 to help keep people safe during crises. The two organisations are sharing skills and expertise to find new and better ways to help people prepare for and respond to disasters. Aviva’s customer service team has had psycho-social training from Red Cross that helps them spot signs of stress when customers call to make a claim. This has led to a six point increase in Aviva’s customer service score. Aviva sponsors the British Red Cross Community Reserve Volunteer project, which was launched following the Grenfell Tower fire and Manchester Arena attack. It aims to register 10,000 people to provide support in their local communities when needed.

Another initiative has been the Aviva Global Mapathon for the Red Cross Missing Maps project. Every year, disasters around the world kill 100,000 people and displace 200 million. But many of the places where disasters occur are literally not on the map – remote villages, for instance – making it impossible for responders to optimise relief decisions. At Mapathon events, Aviva personnel use a variety of resources to add missing details onto maps.

Future plans for the partnership include supporting and preparing communities ahead of extreme weather events and investing in the development of a digital global first aid platform.

BRC Reserve Volunteer project:

Aviva Global Mapathon: