Best Practices from the 2012 Citizens Awards

September 24, 2012

BCLC recently announced the finalists for the 2012 Citizens Awards. As one of the internal reviewers for the Partnership Award, I was thrilled by the deep cooperation between corporations and non-profits evidenced in the applications. This year our application form included a new section for applicants to share “lessons learned.”  The responses to this section provide a golden opportunity for us to share some best practices from the leading initiatives of our corporate partners.

Best Practices

The lessons from applicants fell into three primary categories:  1) Technical Knowledge, 2) Partnership Implementation, and 3) Program Implementation. 

In terms of technical knowledge, applicants shared what they learned on topics such as the best HIV prevention methods and how to find cheaper and more sustainable packaging materials. While helpful, these examples are less useful to the general audience, so we will not focus on them here.

The most repeated advice was to communicate “well and often” with non-profits.

In terms of Partnership Implementation, corporations offered good advice for how to work with non-profit partners. Their most repeated advice was to communicate “well and often” with non-profits. This repetition underscores the importance of communication for making a partnership thrive. As corporations find their way in an uncharted relationship with their partner, frequent communication is the only way they can find out what is working and what is not.

Key Insights from Citizen's Awards "Lessoned Learned"


"Communicate frequently and well" with non-profit partners
Limit the scope of initiatives to keep them hyper-focused
Energize participants by getting senior leadership to announce accomplishments

Other partnership advice from the applicants stressed the need to find partners with complementary strengths, to set reasonable expectations, for both partners to learn from the other, and for the corporate partner to consider what they can contribute to the relationship beyond writing a check.

On the Program Implementation side, lessons fell into five broad categories. These were the need to:

  • Properly deploy staff

  • Properly announce/publicize the project
  • Properly train participants
  • Collect systematic data
  • Properly manage the project

An overarching theme to these lessons was focus. Applicants spoke of limiting the first step to a pilot project, limiting implementation to just one group, phasing in expanded work slowly, and limiting the menu of program options to cut down complexity. It seems that success largely rides on a clear vision of the project’s target, of its subject area, and of its goals. 

An overarching theme to these lessons was focus.

Another lesson that appeared across applications was the value of senior leadership in announcing the accomplishments of an initiative. Keeping enthusiasm behind a project is always critical, and several applicants noted that employees were more engaged when they knew senior managers were involved. On a similar note, one application mentioned that employees should be allowed to air any misgivings early, to ensure that you do not run into unexpected resistance when an initiative is begun.