Guest blog post by Donna Stokes, with Heifer International
The number of non-governmental organizations continues to rise, with an estimated 40,000 operating internationally. Government and global development grants and private-sector dollars to achieve specific goals related to hunger, poverty, and health are spread over a wider crop of nonprofits than ever, many with overlapping agendas.
Organizations that once worked alone are now joining consortiums with other NGOs that include partnerships with private companies to accomplish their missions with greater efficiency and scale. One definition of a public-private partnership is “Cooperation of some sort of durability between public and private actors in which they jointly develop products and services and share risks, costs and resources which are connected with these products.” (Van Ham & Koppenjan, 2001)
Moses Nyabila, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s East Africa Dairy Development Project, recently shared insights as he develops a white paper on the key benefits and strategies of these partnerships, among them an increase in scale, efficiency and sustainability of projects and a decrease in cost to each organization.
The goal of the $42.8 million EADD project is “to help 179,000 dairy farmers in East Africa double their dairy-related incomes by increasing their ownership of crossbred cows, increasing the amount of milk their cows produce and strengthening their relationship to formal markets so they can sell more milk.” Heifer International is the lead partner. Other partners include International Livestock Research Institute, TechnoServe, African Breeders Services Total Cattle Management Ltd. and the World Agroforestry Centre. The project includes many private players in packaging and marketing of dairy products, banking, veterinary services, health care, feed and hardware supplies.
This recent article on Miller-McCune reinforces the idea that innovation is key to improving the effectiveness of aid for vulnerable populations beyond the “relief mindset.” A change is noted in that “increasingly we have seen that response to humanitarian disasters has been coming from the private sector—corporations, foundations and individuals.”
How do you make your organization attractive to other public or private partners and to enter the race for grants?
The first step is to ensure you have a good plan that operates on a scale comparable to the problem, Nyabila said. Be ready to explain any partners’ expected return on investment and talk the same language. For instance, if it’s a USAID Feed the Future project, you need to understand their goals and understand their rules before applying for grants.
What qualities should organizations look for in a private-sector partner?
Synergy and good will are the most important qualities for a good working relationship.
What are the top ways to attract governments and partners?
1) Use an incremental approach. Ask partners to provide one or two things for a project and provide them with full credit for their work. Small successes lead to larger partnerships.
2) Involve partners in the proposal from the start. Invite them to be part of the decision-making process.
3) Scale projects appropriately. You need to show partners that their money goes directly to the program. Offer transparency and be ready to demonstrate good use of the resources.
4) Use media intelligently. If potential partners see that the work you do is getting attention, then they will want to work with you.
5) Maintain credibility. You have to deliver results.