Dissecting Successful Partnerships in the For-Profit

and Not-for-Profit Worlds
Rebecca Wear Robinson

Delivered at: #WCDP2017 Vancouver
October 18, 2017

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2017 report, Preventing Drowning: An
Implementation Guide1, concluded that:
• drowning is a multi-sectoral issue which requires using strategies in tandem with
other public health agendas for maximum effectiveness; and
• a global partnership for drowning prevention should be established.

It makes sense, but it doesn’t explain how successful multi-sectoral partnerships are
created and sustained, much less how a global movement is created.

In this presentation, we will:
• Learn how to identify potential multi-sectoral partners; and
• Visualize a global movement.

To identify what type of partnerships are best for your organization, it is easy to default
to one criteria. ’Do they have money?’ This creates a business model where you are
always chasing after single grants, one-off or small donations, or contributions for single
events. This approach limits your ability to access major sources of funding.

It is common knowledge in business that referrals and repeat customers are far more
profitable than constantly trying to attract new customers. The same holds true for
creating true partnerships which are more effective, more efficient, and better able to
attract sustainable flows of funding from a wider range of sources.

A multi-sectoral approach also yields a better return on investment for investors and
therefore opens up far more funding options.

The second default is to work with people and organizations like you. In interviews they
talk about finding a “good cultural fit”, a criteria that has been found to carry more weight
than analytical thinking and communication in hiring decisions. In actuality, ‘good fit’
means looking in the mirror and placing a high value on what you see, using your own
identity as a template for success. If you play sports, you gravitate towards someone
who plays sports. If your interest is the arts, you gravitate towards someone who has


an interest in the arts. And the search for similarities continues through cultural, socio-
economic and gender markers.

The problem is that when ‘good fit’ means homogeneity, it decreases innovation and
success. Decades of research shows that socially diverse groups are more innovative
than homogenous groups.2

Diversity in approach and opinion can not be attained if all partnerships are formed
within the drowning prevention community. This is, in and of itself, a lack of diversity in

Looking at a broader definition of diversity in developing multi-sector partnerships is
more challenging but significantly improves every organization’s chance of success,
which will, in turn, attract more funding as you can demonstrate a greater return on

To establish multi-sector partnerships which are productive, sustainable, and yield a
solid return on investment, the key questions you need to ask are:
• Who benefits?
• Who has local knowledge? Global knowledge?
• What are contributing factors to the problem?
• What services can be bundled effectively?

To develop a multi-sectoral approach, begin by understanding that drowning is not a

Drowning is a symptom.

Drowning is a symptom of a lack of understanding of water. There are many
contributing factors. Lack of water. Too much water. Lack of access. Too much
access. Geography. Socio-economic issues. Gender issues. Cultural understanding.
Lack of knowledge about water safety. Perceived unimportance of water safety.

Dissecting these factors helps us to identify the right partners.

Who Benefits?
Looking at who benefits should be broken down. How does your target audience
benefit? How do potential partners benefit?

Benefits for your target audience can include: one-stop shopping, or receiving multiple
benefits by participating in one program; greater perceived value of the benefit; the
benefit is easier to receive; the benefit is less expensive to receive.

Benefits for partners can include: greater demand for their programs; greater ability to
fulfill their mission; improved access to their target audience; access to complementary

skills or technology; financial gain; exposure to a wider range of donors; and increased
name recognition.

Ideal partnerships support the adage ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. When beneficiaries
begin to internalize behavior change, when they want to learn about water safety, that
fuels demand for programs.

Market the benefits, not the program.

Who has local knowledge? Global knowledge?

Global strategy. Local solutions.

To be most effective, every issue needs to have a broad framework of best practices
and consistent messages that are adapted to local custom. This approach is the most
cost-effective way to disseminate consistent information efficiently and accurately,
especially if you are engaging and empowering local people who understand the culture
and who have respect in their communities to act as ambassadors for change. Look for
organizations which have a respected boots-on-the-ground presence for related issues
to bundle services and strengthen community engagement, or look for organizations
who can tap into your boots-on-the-ground presence.

Our global knowledge must be consolidated into a global awareness campaign and then
integrated into local programs, adapted to cultural, socioeconomic, and geographic
realities. The structure can, and should, have several different layers of organizations,
as teaching the entire world about water safety is an enormous, complex task, but there
must be a cohesive centralized campaign.

What are contributing factors to the problem?

To identify the right partners in your targeted area, look at the other factors which affect
your target audience and then look for partners who are a logical fit.

Who drowns?
What are the risk factors for drowning in the area?
Where do people drown?
When do people drown?
Why do people drown?

Don’t settle for surface answers to your questions. Do a flow sheet and dissect each of
the factors using the Five Why’s. For each factor, ask the question ‘Why?’ five times to
break down the reasons to a granular level. This will help you identify non-obvious but
valuable partners.

For instance, Debbie Anne Turnbull of Rivers and Seas Sense in Wales looked at who
was drowning. Children and teens. What are some of the risk factors? Risk-taking,

access. Where do risk-taking teens drown? Quarries. When? At all times. Why?
Cold water shock, lack of swimming ability, injury sustained when entering quarry.
Debbie Anne then approached cement companies in the area that had created the
quarries and partnered with them to provide water safety education in the schools.

What services can be bundled effectively?

It is almost always more cost-effective to bundle services. Bundling means providing
complimentary services at one time. Children do not go to separate schools to learn
history, math, and science, the entire academic curriculum is bundled together at one
school. Look back at the contributing factors and see if partnerships can be made to
bundle programs together.

Olympic swimmer Kirsty Coventry and her husband, Ty Seward, are developing a
program to teach swimming to at-risk children in Zimbabwe. They discovered very
quickly that teaching children who haven’t eaten makes no sense and are looking to
bundle their program with an organization which addresses hunger.

The creche program in Bangladesh is textbook bundling. Preschool-aged children are
contained in a school setting during the hours their mothers are busy preparing meals
and doing housework, reducing drowning deaths in these children by over 80%. At the
same time teaching hand washing to prevent diarrhea (a leading killer) and early
childhood education benefits are ‘bundled’ into the program.

Once you have identified potential multi-sectoral partners, think about the type of
partnership which makes the most sense.

Collaboration: The intent is to share knowledge and resources between several
organizations while maintaining full autonomy. Collaboration is more fluid and may
occur for one project or over a sustained period of time and often involves sharing or
promoting a specific area of expertise. Collaboration can be formal or informal, though
it is always a good idea to begin the partnership by setting clear expectations and
responsibilities, along with a discussion of the legal issues regarding intellectual
property and liability.

The drowning prevention community has some fantastic examples of collaboration
these days, including Swim Vietnam, Water Safety Vietnam, and We Bloom - who have
collaborated successfully to engage the Vietnamese government and provide water
safety education to over 170,000 school children.

Consortiums: Multiple organizations with a stake in a specific issue agree to work
together. Consortiums may develop on a global, national, or regional level but can also
be created out of shared focus or experience. Consortiums typically develop a formal
agreement regarding the purpose and the intended outcome of their partnership. This
intent is signaled to the public through adoption of a common name and through the use
of centralized social media, website, and communications campaigns which work in

tandem with the efforts of each organization. Ideally there should be a legal framework
supporting the agreement.

National consortiums are underway in the U.S., UK, and Australia. The Scandinavian
countries work together. Families United Against Drowning. All of these are increasing
our effectiveness, but we also need to develop consortiums outside the drowning
prevention community. Think country-wide, or regional, or even local. What
organizations can you work with to develop and deliver a program that meets the needs
of many local people?

Foundations: Stand-alone philanthropic organizations which provide funding to
organizations whose work supports the goals of the foundation. The mistake is in
viewing foundations only as a source of funding rather working with them to create a
successful long-term partnership. To become a valued partner with a foundation, the
key is to give back, beyond full compliance with data reporting requirements. Identify
potential partners who also receive funding from the foundation. Promote the work of
the foundation on social media and in annual reports, but only if you have explicit
permission. Foundations are a valuable and currently under-utilized source of

We are fortunate to have Bloomberg Philanthropies and Princess Charlene of Monaco
Foundation, but we need to work together to attract the notice of more foundations.

Cause Marketing: A form of marketing in which a for-profit company and a charity
team up together to tackle a social or environmental problem and create business value
for the company at the same time. The partnership can take the form of donating goods
and services, donating a portion of proceeds of sales to a charity, or selling branded
items and donating a portion to a charity.

Speedo has entered the field. We need more.

There are misleading partnerships like Amazon Smile and Google Grants

Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of individual sales to any charity chosen by the buyer.
They have donated over $62 million in 10 years, which means they collected revenue of
$12.4 billion dollars. People who donate through Amazon Smile don’t get a charitable
deduction on their taxes and it may reduce their likelihood of writing a more sizable
check to an organization. Charities have benefited, but Amazon is the big winner in
terms of revenue and good public opinion.

Google provides grants of $10,000 for ads for not-for-profits. The majority of the $89.5
billion dollars they earned in 2016 came from advertising revenue. Ad placement is
dependent on key words and search algorithms and a for-profit entity can easily outbid
the $2 per ad limit for not-for-profits for the best placement. Irish Water Safety has used
Google grants to drive 20% of traffic to their site, because they put significant effort into
identifying the right key words and understanding the search algorithms.

By all means, sign up for Amazon Smile and Google Grants, but be aware, these are
not true partners, and without significant effort, your benefit will be minimal.

When looking for multi-sectoral partnerships, some potential partnerships may be:
• climate change
• water conservation
• education
• child protection
• empowering women
• job creation
• pool/spa manufacturers
• water purification companies (including chemical)
• water related product companies (swim suits, rescue gear, recreational and toy)
• water safety/potable water
• Companies with a strong regional presence, especially if profit off natural resources
or employ large numbers of people
• Other not-for-profits with ties to water safety, water conservation, ocean

To create successful partnerships, keep these points in mind:
• Common goal
• Logical connection
• Mutual gain
• Expectations clearly defined
• Joint marketing approach
• Legal agreement

To minimize your risk of damaging partnerships:
• Exploitative - organizations may try to bolster their negative reputation by partnering
with a not-for-profit to gloss over their problems. This can cause permanent damage
to your organization. A worse case scenario was a not-for-profit focused on
protecting children who partnered with a company found to be engaging in child
labor. The not-for-profit barely survived.
• Controversial - which are pushing controversial products, engaged in controversial
practices, or promoting positions on divisive social or political issues, will drag your
organization into a different fight. If a partner veers into a controversial area, be
prepared to launch into damage control and distance yourself immediately.
• Diluting your brand - there are times where being a minority partner is a good idea,
but beware of minimizing the importance of drowning prevention and your brand all
the time. There will only be a demand for drowning prevention programs if we are all
working to keep the issue on the global stage.
• Structural apathy - Don’t become dependent on one partner or one source of
funding. This approach will leave you high and dry if that partnership dissolves.

• Overwhelming success - As much as you may think ‘if only we had a million dollars,
or ten million dollars’, it’s very hard to grow a program rapidly while still keeping
control over the quality and outcome. Set reasonable plans for sustainable growth.

I have developed, and am in the process of launching, a global awareness campaign
that will give a platform to drowning prevention efforts.

Make the Minute Matter integrates principles of social marketing into global awareness
and education campaigns and provides funding for our established network of skills-
based training programs. Our temporary website is: www.maketheminutematter.org,
but stop by the site for the full story after January 1, 2018.

Our goal is positive, sustainable, and cost-effective behavioral change reinforced
through education and skill development.

The Make the Matter team is looking forward to to directing the public’s attention to your
programs, and to providing ongoing financial support for your programs.

Dissecting Successful Partnerships in the For-Profit and Not-for-Profit Worlds

Assessing Your Organization
What are our organization’s strengths and weaknesses?

Do we have strong brand recognition in our targeted areas and with our target market?

Is our cause attractive to certain companies and industries?

Is our target audience appealing to some corporations?

Is the cause considered urgent in our targeted areas and with our target market?

Are we local, national or international?

Identifying Potential Partnership
Who benefits?

Who has local knowledge? Global knowledge?

What are the contributing factors to the problem?

• Who drowns?
• What are the risk factors for drowning in the area?
• Where do people drown?
• When do people drown?
• Why do people drown?

• Do the Five Why’s for each factor.

What services can be bundled effectively?

What type of partnership is best for what we want to accomplish?
• Collaboration
• Consortium
• Foundations
• Cause Marketing