Overcoming barriers to effective partnerships with NGOs

Overcoming barriers to effective partnerships with NGOs

Lukas Sallmann, Swiss Red Cross (Switzerland)
Heather Alner, Habitat for Humanity (Slovak Republic)
Antoine Colonna, Pro Bono Lab France (France)

Moderator: Wendy Osborne, IAVE & Volunteer Now Northern Ireland (UK)

The context for the session was established by the plenary presentation of Richard Dictus who stressed the need for partnership as a fundamental pre requisite of implementation to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. The three Forum presenters, from Habitat for Humanity, a leading international housing NGO; Pro Bono Lab, mobilising teams of volunteers to build the capacity of small and medium non-profit organisations; and the Swiss Red Cross, Switzerland’s oldest and largest relief organisation, all involve volunteers as a vital aspect of their work, what they do cannot be done without volunteers. Each of the presenters shared their experience and provided a useful insight into how they build effective partnerships to involve corporate volunteers. The following key points summarize the input from the Forum regarding what underpins effective partnership working.

  • The importance of aligning corporate volunteering with the NGOs social impact goals and the creation of shared value.
  • Effective partnership requires an understanding of expectations and flexibility from both the company and the NGO, the relationship and input has to be meaningful with the aim of achieving something for everyone involved – organizations, volunteers, beneficiaries.
  • The partnership should focus on both short term and long term value and agree the commitment that is appropriate. The commitment will be volunteer time but may also involve product donation, advocacy, and financial investment.
  • The NGO should value the multiplier effect and see corporate volunteers as both a resource of enthusiasm and skills and as potential ambassadors and advocates.
  • Volunteering is not free and to maximise impact requires appropriate investment in management and organisation including training. Corporate partners should acknowledge and cover the real costs associated with corporate volunteering as part of effective partnership working with NGOs.

Prepared by Wendy Osborne OBE, Moderator


Presentation by 
Lukas Sallmann, Swiss Red Cross

Presentation by 
Heather Alner, Habitat for Humanity

Presentation by 
Antoine Colonna, Pro Bono Lab France

LUKAS SALLMANN is the Head of Marketing & Communication Department at Swiss Red Cross (SRC), Bern. He is responsible for positioning the SRC as a competent, sustainable, trustworthy, multifaceted relief organization, ensuring innovative, competitive and broad-based fundraising, and promoting the fundamental principles SRC.

HEATHER ALNER is the Associate Director for Corporate Engagement at Habitat for Humanity International. She has developed and led the corporate partnerships division for Europe, Middle East and Africa, mobilizing over $40 million. Heather has initiated and managed corporate partnerships as well as overseeing corporate fundraising in a number of countries across the region.

ANTOINE COLONNA D’ISTRIA is the Co‐founder and Director of Strategy of Pro Bono Lab. He has been studying and working on pro bono volunteering with social innovators in more than 10 countries since 2010, while growing Pro Bono Lab into a 16 full-time staff organization with hundreds of volunteers in France. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Global Pro Bono Network.


WENDY OSBORNE is the National Volunteer Centers Representative for IAVE and is also the CEO of Volunteer Now, the Northern Ireland national volunteer center that helps to recognize, encourage and support the contribution of individuals giving time to enhance the well-being of their communities.