The private-nonprofit partnership model of social enterprise is a mutually beneficial business partnership or joint venture between a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization. The partnership may occur with an existing social enterprise, or may result in the creation of a new entity or a profit center. The social enterprise may or may not be mission-related and leverages the nonprofit organization's assets, such as relationships with their target population, community, brand, or expertise. For the for-profit, the partnership yields one or more of the following benefits: lowers costs (cheaper labor/lower R&D costs); reduces restrictions (no strict regulatory oversight); improves community relations or public image; enables new product development; penetrates new markets; or increases sales. Partnership benefits for the nonprofit are financial return, marketing and brand equity, and in cases where the activity is mission-related, social impact. The market is most often external--the public, but examples exist where the paying customer and the client are one. The private-nonprofit relationship may be structured as a joint venture, a licensing agreement, or formal partnership.
It is worth noting that nonprofits use the term "partnership" loosely to refer to corporate philanthropy or cause-related marketing. The private-nonprofit partnership model is a partnership based on active operational involvement in a social enterprise, not simply a business relationship, which could be a funder, customer or supplier represented in other social enterprise models.
Theoretical example: an environmental organization forms a partnership with a travel and touring company to create a new "Eco Enterprise." The nonprofit organization provides environmental education, consulting services, and access to land conservation trusts and indigenous people under its auspices. The touring company handles marketing, and manages tourists and the touring logistics. The two organizations share the return. The nonprofit uses the proceeds to fund its environmental programs and the company retains or distributes their profit. Benefits for the for-profit are: access to the eco-tourist market, conservation land and local people, and an "eco-friendly" public image. The nonprofit gains: a new vehicle to promote it social programs--the tourist market, a new source of fundraising (many tourists donate to the organization) and social impact vis-à-vis new economic opportunities for indigenous people to sell their environmental products (i.e. handcrafts) or services (boat excursions). Both make money.
Helados Bon, an example of Private-Nonprofit Partnership Model
Helados Bon is large progressive ice cream company based in the Dominican Republic, whose interest in diversifying its ice-cream led to the introduction of a new flavor, macadamia, and the opportunity to help the country's ecology. A partnership was forged between Helados Bon and an environmental nonprofit, Plan Sierra. The business idea leveraged each of the partners' knowledge and assets, marrying Helados Bon's ice cream industry expertise with Plan Sierra's conservation efforts. The social enterprise that emerged helps local farmers grow macadamia trees and reforest farmland through the sale of delicious ice cream.
Macadamia trees, which are capable of growing to a height of over 500 meters on infertile land, are ideal for reforestation and conservation of natural resources. In the partnership, Plan Sierra manages and coordinates local farmers growing macadamia nuts which are used to make the new ice cream flavor; Helados operates the production and sale of the macadamia ice cream. The social enterprise earns one peso for each double macadamia ice cream sold to fund macadamia conservation efforts and local farmers gain a steady customer for their macadamia nuts. Helados Bon also disseminates information about conservation and the importance of growing macadamia to its customers. Plan Sierra uses the revenue generated by the social enterprise to promote and develop its macadamia program.
The partnership is a win-win proposition for all of those involved: Helados Bon increased its sales; Plan Sierra achieved the reforestation of more than 140,000 hectares with macadamia trees; and farmers have benefited with higher paying jobs and marketable crops.