CDB's 2015 report on "Effective Communication and Cooperation between Chinese NGOs and Businesses"
This article is part of CDB’s Special Focus on ‘Effective Communication and Cooperation between NGOs and Business’. It originally formed the ninth case study in CDB’s latest research report which we released in July 2015 (you can view the original here). Over the next few weeks we will be publishing translations of the remaining case studies contained in that report. The case studies detail partnerships between Chinese NGOs, foundations, and businesses.
NGOs and businesses have different project cycles. NGO projects are often based on years of planning, and the results sometimes take years to appear. NGO projects may also go through a long development process. When a project changes, how should the organization maintain and strengthen its partnership with a business?
One illustrative example is the Shanghai Better Education Development Center (上海百特教育), which started off helping local youth with financial management, and gradually expanded to providing services like vocational training including self-cognition, teamwork, time management, emotion management, accounting, starting a business, career planning, and so on. Over 5 years, Shanghai Better Education has slowly built out a comprehensive service system training youth in life skills. Throughout this process, Shanghai Better Education has to establish more and more partnerships with corporations: of the 90% of its funding that comes from donations, 75% was subsidized by several corporate foundations. These donors have now funded the Center for 4-5 years.
This kind of continued support gives NGOs time to launch and complete projects. Because good educational programs aren’t “one size fits all”, they can be difficult to duplicate on a larger scale. In such a large country as China, and under the background of the country’s economic disparity and diverse population, developing a program that adheres to the development of children and can fulfill different needs across the country requires exploratory time, which in turn requires financial support. Shanghai Better Education was able to afford the costs associated with this due to the continuous financial support from its donors.
How was the Shanghai Better Education Development Center able to achieve long-term, high-level consensus with its partners? In the initial stages of forming a partnership, uncertainty is hard to avoid. Achieving long-term, sustained cooperation requires that the project itself can stand the test of time, the dispositions of the organization and the corporation are relatively aligned, and the NGO has the ability to do truly effective work.
When a company enters into a partnership with an NGO, it will pay attention to the organization’s sustainability. For example, it will evaluate the organization’s operational professionalism, the transparency of its operations, whether or not it can produce professional budgets and reports, and its ability to integrate social resources. The NGO’s legal and social compliance and development history are also of importance to the corporation’s assessment.
In their actual operations, partnerships will also encounter the need for flexibility. In a given project with multiple financial support providers, for example, their requests may clash, and each of them may want to place emphasis on their own priorities. For example, one funder may require that it does not work together with a competitor, or might even be unwilling to work with another funder altogether. How can such problems be resolved? One approach is to have multiple subdivisions of a large project that can be differentiated by location of implementation or target audience. These subdivisions can perhaps meet the requirements of different funders.
Each company has its own business focus, which determines the company’s community focus. These two foci are fixed. There are two types of funding. The first is for projects that span 3 to 5 years, for which the sum of funding is large and usually contributed by the company’s foundation or headquarters. The second component is short-term funding to be used for seasonal projects, for example for International Women’s Day. According to these characteristics, different NGOs can fulfill the long-term, mid-term, and short-term requirements of a company.
Case study: Holding hands with HSBC for 15 Years
In January 1995, the Shanghai Charity Foundation (上海市慈善基金会) and Shanghai Second Polytechnic University jointly launched the first non-profit organization in China geared towards giving disadvantaged social groups educational training: the Shanghai Charity Education Training Center (上海市慈善教育培训中心).15 years, 8 projects, and 22 million RMB later, this relationship remains: one financial backer for one grassroots non-profit organization. This is something to be proud of.
As a rare example at the time of a charitable partnership between a university and a foundation, the Shanghai Charity Education Training Center (the Center) at its inception actively explored ways to work with the government. In 1997, the Center implemented a project launched by the Shanghai Charity Foundation called the “charity education training for all” program, coordinating it with the government’s re-employment project. As a result, more than 50% of students were able to find employment through the training program. In 1998, after the municipal government started to implement free training for laid-off workers waiting for reassignment, the Center once again actively developed a corresponding training project. Since then, the Center has consistently maintained a cooperative relationship with the Shanghai government. From 2004 to 2013, various Shanghai government organs frequently purchased the center’s services and thus provided funding for all kinds of training projects.
Good government relations over the last 20 years have forged a stable and sustainable foundation for the Center’s development. For charitable organizations at this stage of development, this is important. However the long-term and penetrating cooperation undertaken by Shanghai Charity Education Training Center and corporate social responsibility departments is worth even greater attention.
In 1997, Shanghai served as the front-line for the nationwide state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform. As a result, many workers were laid off. Finding employment for these workers became a social problem in urgent need of solving at the time. However, the Shanghai Municipal Labor Department had not put together any relevant training program. Shanghai Charity Education Training Center set its main mission to aid the government in re-employing laid-off workers.
Meanwhile, HSBC also became concerned about the unemployment problem. As an international financial corporation, HSBC was fully committed to fulfilling its corporate social responsibility (CSR), and to actively support charitable causes. They believed that although the number of individuals waiting for job re-assignment in Shanghai was high, the workers all still had the ability to work. HSBC believed that it should increasingly conduct “knowledge poverty alleviation” rather than assisting the poor with only material goods. This belief agreed with the Center’s aim to “alleviate knowledge poverty and promote personal development”. As a result, under the coordination of the Shanghai Charity Foundation, the two parties came to a preliminary partnership agreement. Subsequently, HSBC put forth recommendations to provide 600,000 RMB in funding to train 600 laid-off workers. After the first round of training, the participating workers saw a 50% re-employment rate, thereby achieving the target. HSBC thus decided to continue funding the Center 800,000 RMB annually for two more years. The partnership between the Center and HSBC moved into its next stage.
Through the first project, the Center came to understand that HSBC is a corporation with an intense sense of social responsibility: via its specialized CSR department, HSBC dedicated a large sum of funding to charitable work. In other words, for a good project with good service, funding will not be an issue. Hence, the Center decided to take action in maintaining its long-term partnership with HSBC. On the other hand, the Center also came to understand: HSBC was more willing to help NGOs to attract more social resources since its own resources are limited, and from this promote an increased sense of responsibility throughout society and develop effective solutions to social problems. In view of this point, the Center believed HSBC would not want its’ long-term funding to be used on one project alone. New projects must be launched continuously to meet the needs of society. Only this will fullfil HSBC’s CSR requirements.
After successfully attracting HSBC as a long-term supporter, the Center came to fully prioritize launching new projects in accordance with both the needs of society and HSBC’s requirements. With this, the Center carried out a thorough investigation into the employment challenges in the 21st century for unemployed youth in Shanghai. Through the investigation, the Center developed a project called “Spreading Wings Under the Sun – Helping unemployed youth in the community find work”. After a trial period of one and a half years, students achieved a 78% re-employment rate. Subsequently, the Center invited Liu Yungeng, deputy secretary of Shanghai municipal party, to attend the pilot class’s graduation ceremony. The government’s affirmation not only brought the Center a great reputation, but also presented a new opportunity for the Center’s partnership with HSBC. As a foreign bank, HSBC had a strong intention to uphold its government relations. For HSBC, indirectly securing government recognition through funding charitable activities was akin to hitting two birds with one stone. Therefore, the chairman of HSBC headquarters’ educational foundation personally came to Shanghai to inspect the pilot project, and soon after approved a 3 million RMB funding for the formal project. After more than a year of formal training, the new group of students achieved a high 80% employment rate. In the second year, after the withdrawal of HSBC, the project once again captured the attention of the Shanghai Municipal Education Committee. Finally, with funding from the Shanghai Municipal Education Committee, the project continued for 10 years, training 5,000 students in total, and achieved extraordinary social results. The project also fulfilled HSBC’s CSR aspiration to attract more social resources through one project.
Through the two projects, the Center has earned HSBC’s full approval and trust. But for HSBC, one successful project was not enough. The Center believed firmly that only consistent communication and new project development with HSBC could create more partnership opportunities. Subsequently, the Center reaches out to HSBC management six months ahead of each project completion in order to understand HSBC’s needs and carry out an evaluation accordingly. For example, in 2012 during the second project funded by HSBC called “green e-banking for all migrant workers”, the Center came to learn HSBC was unable to provide a new round of funding for the project. With this, the Center proactively contacted HSBC Charity Foundation’s secretary general, and found out that ordinary people would be unable to withstand the financial crisis due to the lack of financial knowledge, and therefore the China Banking Regulatory Commission required all banks to provide financial education to their customers. The training center keenly grasped the potential of this point, taking into consideration their own target group, launched a “financial education for all migrant workers” project. After applying, the project quickly secured HSBC’s approval and financial support. Subsequently, this project gained the attention and approval of China Banking Regulatory Commission’s Consumer Protection Bureau and the Shanghai Municipal Banking Regulatory Bureau. The CBRC Consumer Protection Bureau served as the project’s guiding work unit, and the Shanghai Municipal Banking Regulatory Bureau served as one of the project organizers. The project, running from 2012 to 2013, became a success of cooperation among government, corporations, and social organizations in launching a public welfare project.
Apart from smooth communication, the Center was also able to provide excellent customer service to HSBC. In order to keep HSBC updated with the progress of the project, the Center routinely held meetings to report on project results, and invited HSBC project administrator to visit students in classrooms and their work places. In addition, even though the Center itself was not a large-scale organization and its outreach capabilities were lacking, it still drew up publicity plans for each project. The Center fully utilized its limited resources, and publicized its HSBC projects by every possible means including internet, media, activities, and contests. This hard work garnered social approval, expanded the impact of those projects, and indirectly facilitated HSBC in achieving its CSR targets. Moreover, the Center used the fund in strict accordance with HSBC’s requirements, kept its financial operations open and transparent, and has earned the full trust of HSBC.
For the Center, capital investment in education is generally long-term and high-cost. Only sustainable investment can lead to good results. Establishing a long-term partnership with a corporation is essential for diversifying its sources of funding, thereby ensuring its daily operation. For corporations, funding charitable education carries great meaning. The results are measurable, and it can fulfill the company’s CSR commitments. For these reasons, a small organization can also form a long-term relationship with a large corporation and realize its own values if it can identify and meet the corporation’s requirements as well as communicate and coordinate with the corporation timely.
Both Shanghai Better Education and Shanghai Charity Education Training Center through their own distinctive practices have developed stable, long-term corporate partnerships. In fact, in looking for a corporate partner, a NGO must consider the nature of its own projects. If a project is a long-term project, organizations not only have to think about funding, but also must come to a common understanding with the corporation on the project’s development. The success of the NGO projects is achieved by simple replication, expansion, or more funding. NGOs are not only public service providers, but also explorers. Compared with governments and companies, NGOs have far fewer resources to work with, but their innovative and exploratory potential can motivate wide participation from the government and others. Making something great out of something small is an important function of NGOs. Thus, a project, when fully developed, can achieve real results, benefit the recipients of the service and solve social problems instead of just gaining more market share or adding project sites. This concept is not strange to funders with a vision. For example, when a given corporate foundation increases its funding for an NGO’s project from 50,000 USD to 500,000 USD, it will focus on upgrading the NGO’s capabilities in branding, research, project management, and advocacy. Only when both parties share this mindset is there an opportunity to develop a long-term, stable partnership.
上海百特教育从做青少年理财开始的，一点点扩展到更广的生活技能教育，包括自我认知、团队合作、时间管理、情绪管理，怎么做计划，怎么做预算，怎么创业， 怎么做职业人生规划等等内容。百特用了五年，在发展过程中慢慢扩展出一个相对完整的关于青少年生活技能教育的业务范畴。在这个过程中，百特必然要跟企业建 立更多的合作关系，因为它的资金90%来自捐赠，90%中的75%是多家企业基金会提供资助。这些资助方从4~5年前提供资金后，一直持续提供资金。
这种持续的资助使得公益组织有时间开发、完善项目。因为所有好的教育项目，都不会像工厂的流水线上的产品那么标准化，可以大规模复制。在中国这么大范围 内，在经济差距、文化差距显著的背景下，开发出一个符合儿童发展的课程能够适应全国各地的需求，需要时间慢慢去摸索，这个摸索的时间是需要资金来支持的。 百特因为这些资助方的持续资助，使得自己能够支付得起这个时间成本。
在具体操作中也会遇到需要灵活处理的问题。如对于同一个项目，有多家资助方要参与资助，各自诉求不完全一致，又需要凸显自己的独特性，比如要求不与竞争对 手一起，甚至不想做另外一方的配套资金，如何解决这个问题？一个方法是，在大项目下面有一些不同内容的子项目，还有实施地区不同，受众群体的细分。这些子 项目的细分或可以满足不同资助方的需求。
每家企业都有各自的业务重点，这个重点也决定了它的社区重点，这两个重点是固定的。此外，企业的钱分成几部分，一块是投3~5年项目，资金额度大，一般是 企业基金会或者总部的钱，第二类就是短平快的钱，用于应景项目，例如在三八妇女节、雷锋日搞些活动。根据这些特点，不同公益组织其实是可以满足企业长期、 中期和短期需求。
作为当时罕见的由大学和基金会合作的慈善组织，在成立初期，上海市慈善教育培训中心就积极地探索与政府的合作方式。1997年，中心组织实施了上海市慈善 基金会推出的“慈善教育万人培训项目”来配合政府的再就业工程，使50%以上的学员通过培训实现了再就业。在1998年市政府开始实施下岗失业人员的免费 培训后，中心又积极开发相关培训项目。之后，中心一直和上海市政府保持着良好的合作关系。从2004到2013年，上海市各类政府机构通过不断的服务购买 为中心提供了各类培训项目的资金支持。
与此同时，汇丰银行也注意到了下岗待业人员的就业问题。汇丰作为国际化的金融企业，十分重视履行企业社会责任，参与慈善事业。他们认为虽然上海待业群体人 数众多，但都有足够的劳动能力，不能单纯在物质上进行扶贫，而应更多地进行智力扶贫，这与中心的“知识扶贫、助人发展”的理念高度契合。于是在上海市慈善 基金会的联系下，双方达成了初步的合作意向。随后，汇丰银行提出愿意提供60万元的经费，用于培训600名下岗待业人员。在第一期的培训结束后，这批下岗 待业人员达到了50%的再就业率，很好地完成了预设目标。因此，汇丰方面对中心给予了高度评价，决定继续为培训中心提供两年的资助，并将额度提高到了每年 80万元。中心和汇丰银行的合作拉开了序幕。
通过第一个项目，中心了解到，汇丰银行是一家具有强烈社会责任感的企业，通过专门的企业社会责任部门将大量的资金用于慈善事业。换言之，只要有好的项目和 服务，资金就不是问题。于是中心决定采取行动，维护与汇丰银行的长期合作关系。另一方面，中心又了解到：汇丰银行认为企业的资源是有限的，其更愿意帮助公 益组织通过有限的资源来撬动更多的社会资源，并由此推动社会整体责任感的提升和社会问题的有效解决。基于这一点，中心认为，汇丰银行并不会长期资助同一个 项目，只有根据社会的需求，不断开发新的项目，才能满足汇丰的企业社会责任需求。
有了吸引汇丰成为中心长期支持者的目标后，中心就十分重视根据社会需求和汇丰的要求，开发新的项目。于是中心针对新世纪出现的上海社区失业青年的就业问题 展开了深入的调查。通过调查，中心开发了“阳光下展翅——社区失业青年就业援助项目”。通过为期一年半的试点，使学员达到78%的再就业率。之后，更是邀 请到了上海市委副书记刘云耕出席试点班的毕业典礼。政府的肯定不仅给中心带来了良好的声誉，也给中心与汇丰的合作带来了新的契机。汇丰作为为数不多的外资 银行，有维护政府关系的强烈需求，如果能通过资助慈善事业间接得到政府的肯定，对汇丰来说是一举多得的。于是汇丰总部教育基金会总裁亲自来到上海调研项目 的试点情况，并很快批准了300万元的正式项目计划。经过一年多的正式培训，新一批的学员达到了80%的极高就业率。第二年，在汇丰银行退出后，项目又得 到上海市教委的关注。最终，在上海市教委的资助下，“社区失业青年就业援助项目”持续了10年，共培训了5,000名学员，达到了非常好的社会效果。也很 好地满足了汇丰希望通过单个项目带动更多社会资源的企业社会责任意愿。
通过这两个项目，中心取得了汇丰的充分肯定和信任。但只有好的项目，对汇丰来说是远远不够的。于是中心坚信，只有长期不断地与汇丰进行沟通，进行项目创 新，才能创造更多的合作机会。之后，中心会在每一个项目结束前半年，主动寻求与汇丰高层接触的机会，了解汇丰的需求，并展开有针对性的调研。比 如，2012年中心在开展汇丰银行资助的第二期“万名农民工绿色网上行”项目时，了解到汇丰不可能再为这个项目提供新一轮的资助。于是中心主动联系汇丰银 行慈善基金的秘书长，了解到：因为消费者缺乏金融知识，导致普通民众抵御金融危机的能力不足，银监会要求各个银行对金融消费者进行金融教育。培训中心敏锐 地抓住了这一潜在热点，与自身的服务群体相结合，开发了“万名进城务工人员金融教育项目”。在申请后，很快得到了汇丰银行的批准和资助。随后，这个项目又 得到了银监会消保局和上海市银监局的关注和认可，银监会消保局成为这一项目的指导单位，上海市银监局成为项目的主办方之一。2012-2013年实施的 “万名进城务工人员金融教育项目”成为政府、企业和社会组织合作开展公益项目的一次成功实践。
除了良好的沟通之外，中心还会为汇丰提供优质的客户服务。为了让汇丰能随时了解项目的执行情况，中心会定期举行项目成果汇报会，并邀请汇丰的项目官员走进 课堂和就业单位了解学员的真实情况。此外，虽然中心作为一家规模不大的民非机构，宣传能力不足，但依旧为每一个项目制定了必要的宣传计划。中心充分利用有 限的资源，千方百计通过网络、媒体、活动、评奖等多种形式宣传汇丰资助的项目，努力争取社会认可，扩大项目的影响力，间接为汇丰实现其企业社会责任提供了 便利。除此之外，中心还严格按照汇丰的要求使用资金，保持其财务状况的持续公开、透明，取得了汇丰的充分信任。
对中心而言，教育资本投资具有长期性且成本高昂，需要有持续性的投入才能取得较好的效果。所以，与企业建立长期合作关系是做到资金来源多元化，使机构正常 运作的重要保证。而对企业来说，资助慈善教育意义大，成果能够量化，能为企业带来良好的社会责任效益。因此，从这个层面上说，如果能把握住和满足企业的需 求，加强及时沟通与协调，小机构也能“傍上”大企业，从而实现其自身价值。
百特和上海慈善教育培训中心都在各自的实践中，发展了稳定的长期的企业伙伴。事实上，找什么样的企业，公益组织也要考虑到自己做的是什么项目。如果是一个 长期发展项目，除了钱以外，还要与企业在对项目发展方面有共识。公益组织的项目不是简单地复制和扩大规模，增加了资金量就算成功。公益组织是服务者，也是 探索者。和政府、公司的资源相比，公益组织永远都是弱小的，它的创新和探索能撬动政府和其他部门的广泛参与，四两拔千斤才是公益组织更重要的价值所在。所 以，当项目成熟后，不是多几个项目点，占有更多的市场份额，而是实实在在做出成果，使服务对象受益，从而有效解决社会问题。这个特质对于有远见的资助方来 说并不陌生。比如某个企业基金会，当对某家公益组织的项目从5万美元增加到50万美元的时候，它会注重机构能力的提升，品牌、研究能力、项目管理能力、倡 导的能力。当双方有这种共同理念的时候，才有机会能够发展长期稳定的合作关系。