Finding the Best Partnership Model for your Business

Before you can determine what sort of partnership is the most suitable option for your business, you need to be clear about what you can bring to the table and what you want or need from a partnership. For advice on how to work out what you want and what you can offer, see the Before You Get Started help sheet.

Not identifying these factors beforehand can be detrimental - is it no use realising after you have signed up to a partnership that your business was actually best placed to deliver training or in-kind support to your community group partner, rather than the donations or sponsorship the community group was seeking.

Nor is it any good your business offering to sponsor a community group event - and associate your firm's name with it to gain some positive publicity - when what your community partner really needs to make that event a success are volunteer resources.

The list below will help you work out how your business's abilities and needs tally with the key characteristics of business partnership models.


  • Ideal for a business with staff/management willing and able to give their time, and who want to be involved in the community group's activities.
  • Can be adapted to most requirements, from a mutually beneficial working bee with an environmental group in your area to a more long-term volunteer program.
  • Research suggests that as well as communities benefiting from volunteer time and effort, volunteering can improve staff morale, productivity and loyalty.
  • Can raise the profile of your business through association with the partnership's work.
  • Joining a community group or the Board of a community group is a more in-depth form of volunteering that needs a genuine commitment of time and effort - both inside and outside business hours - and business flexibility.

Monetary Donations/Sponsorships
  • Good for businesses with plenty of money to give, or those with a greater capability or desire to give money than other resources.
  • Can be tailored to involve a staff donation scheme or to elicit donations from business clients.
  • Both donations and monetary sponsorships can offer businesses a high-profile way of showing their support to a community group - for example, sponsor's logos on sports uniforms, the sponsoring of a community event or a donation tin on the front counter of your business.
Other Donations/In-kind support
  • Suitable for a business with fewer financial resources, but which have a solid base of goods, services, labour or other resources to offer. A worthwhile option for smaller or medium-sized businesses.
  • Goods, like money, can simply be donated, but an arrangement of in-kind support means a commitment of goods, services or resources - such as computers, haircuts, items for auction, books or lawn mowing - to help a community group or project beneficial to all partners.
  • A very flexible partnership model, which can be tailored to the needs of both partners.
  • Another model with the potential to publicly show support for a community group partner. Pro Bono or Discounted Services and Products
  • Related to the provision of in-kind support, a pro bono arrangement is where business staff with skills, knowledge or experience provide services to a community group for free - allowing that group to concentrate its resources on other tasks.
  • A modified arrangement provides heavily discounted services. This benefits the business involved - as it still gains some income from its services - and the community group through savings on normal costs.
  • Pro bono or discounted services are suitable for businesses with adequate staff resources and time, or those that are in good enough financial shape to offer a discount on their services to their community group.
  • It can benefit business through increased exposure, good publicity and the possibility of increased customer or client numbers through goodwill and referrals.
Business as Collection Point
  • This sort of partnership works best for businesses that have well-visited premises with plenty of foot traffic, or have the resources or profile to effectively cross-promote with a community group.
  • Apart from offering a successful and highly visible partnership with a community group, this model of partnership has the potential to attract more customers to a business premises and improve a firm's reputation and profile.
Employment/Work Experience
  • Best suited to a business with the resources and willingness to provide guidance to those on work experience.
  • Another option for a business willing to examine its employment practices and employee diversity is to seek advice from an advocacy group partner working with disadvantaged groups - such as indigenous people or people with disabilities - on how it can employ people from those sectors in the future.
Skills and Knowledge Sharing/Secondment
  • For businesses which feel they have some knowledge or skills that would benefit a community group, and the wider community, this type of partnership model is ideal.
  • While a business can share skills with a community group, the opposite is also true - providing the opportunity for a really mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Offering secondment of staff to a community group partner is another way of skill sharing, but also a model offering concrete assistance at certain times - for example, an accountancy firm seconding staff to a community group during tax time.
  • This option is best suited to a business with the staff resources to allow it.
  • A mentoring arrangement is an option for your business if you believe your company is able to share knowledge useful to an individual's personal and professional development.
  • It is a suitable option for businesses unable to make cash or in-kind donations, but with experienced staff willing to spare some time.
  • Mentoring can generate good publicity for your business, help people who could possibly help your firm one day, and improve the community in which you do business. Sharing or Donation of Premises/Infrastructure
  • Ideal for businesses with a spare room, a spare desk/s or empty storage space, with community groups operating in the vicinity.
  • Offers a business the potential to attract more customers or higher visibility in the community - particularly if the community group sharing the space is one visited by a large number of people - as well as a very public show of support for your community group partner.
  • The sharing or donation of infrastructure is an arrangement which allows for some "cross-promotion'' through the joint use of key promotional vehicles (a newsletter, for example).
Scholarships and Awards
  • For a business with a strong belief in the work of a community group partner.
  • The business involved needs to have the money or resources to put towards the scholarship or award.
  • This type of partnership gives a business good exposure and name recognition in the community - particularly with students, who are most likely to be the targets of such a partnership model.
  • A tangible reward is required, and a willingness to involve third parties (such as schools) in the partnership if necessary.

    If, after working through the list, you find more than one community-business partnership model that is suitable for your business:

    • Think about the model that would not only provide the most benefit for your business, but would be the most attractive to offer a prospective community partner.
    • Consider which partnership model would bring about the most benefit for the community in which both partners exist.
    More information on the partnership models listed here can be found in the Ways to be Involved help sheet.