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Breakthrough NGO + corporate partnerships | Purposeful Connections

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Partnerships between corporations and nonprofits can be transformative. Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding, nearly 15 years after its release, is a reminder of how the best relationships and practices are built over time and not on trends. Looking back on this book, authored by our own Carol Cone and Kristian Merenda, the success drivers highlighted have only grown in relevance. For example:


Transparency and effective communication remain foundational to authentic, lasting partnerships. Engaging in clear, open conversations and aligning goals builds trust and allows partnerships to evolve organically. Take the 25-year alliance between Starbucks and Conservation International, focused on sustainable coffee production and ethical sourcing, or Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity’s equally incredible 25-year long-term collaboration. Both partnerships exemplify how a deep commitment to shared values can drive significant environmental and community impact.


Community involvement continues to be more than a nice thing; it's a crucial element in proven, successful relationships. Engaging directly with those impacted by initiatives ensures that efforts are more relevant and embraced. The Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, a shining example of this, is co-created with the stakeholders it serves. Leveraging Google's resources, it offers digital skills training to thousands, directly improving employment outcomes in underserved communities.


Innovation is not just a buzzword in breakthrough collaborations—it's a driving force. The partnership between Microsoft and the nonprofit Airband underscores this truth. Together, they are working to bring high-speed internet to rural communities, a groundbreaking initiative that demonstrates how tech must remain engaged to bridge the ever-changing digital divide. 


Building partnerships that last is strategic and crucial for sustained, meaningful progress change. Now more than ever, when resources are stretched—putting in the extra effort to develop deep, sustained relationships for the right reasons, with the right players, based on the right practices the first time, is worth it. So, what are you waiting for? What’s your purpose? — Kristian Merenda & Carol Cone

🏆 A new reputation: Nvidia, 3M, and Fidelity Investments top this year's Axios Harris Poll 100 Reputation Rankings. Based on 20 years of Harris Poll research and recent polling, the annual rankings gauge "the reputations of companies most on the minds of Americans." Each organization is assigned scores based on a variety of factors including "character," "trajectory," "trust," and "ethics." Some of the biggest leaps in rank include Fidelity Investments, which jumped 26 places on the 2024 list; Hobby Lobby (up 25); and Dell (up 22). Companies with the biggest drops in reputation include Starbucks (down 29 places), Ford Motor Company (down 23), and Kohl's (down 21).


⛅️ Building a better climate: LEGO employee compensation is now linked to meeting climate goals, particularly goals related to reducing operational carbon emissions. True to the company's collaborative ethos, the new performance management approach incentivizes and rewards all salaried employees for "contributing to carbon reduction targets." (Often, only senior or executive compensation is linked to ESG goals.) Overall, LEGO aims to reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 37% before 2032, and is working toward being net zero by 2050.


We are facing a tragedy of the commons — and have been for a while. At worst, businesses are taking advantage of the planet and society and aren’t holding themselves fully responsible for the damage they are doing. We invited Christopher Marquis, University of Cambridge professor and author, to discuss his new book The Profiteers, where he explains the systemic issues underlying today's most pressing global challenges and presents a call to action for leaders across sectors to embrace a new vision of business.


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