OXFORD, England - It's a vexing question for anyone in need of a financial shot in the arm - whom do I ask for money and how?
For social entrepreneurs, getting into bed with a big corporation is more than just a financial lifeline. They try to drive transformative change for a more equitable society, which is what sets them apart from large profit-driven businesses. But big firms can help social enterprises to broaden their reach, tap into valuable resources and boost their growth.
For big businesses, the reasons to build relationships with social entrepreneurs are becoming more and more compelling as consumers increasingly expect businesses to act in a socially responsible way and think about their social impact.
Earlier this week delegates at the Social Enterprise Exchange in Glasgow heard from a seasoned social entrepreneur on how to approach corporate sponsorship.
David Carleton, director of Catalyst Kitchens, a social enterprise that teaches low-income and homeless people culinary skills, said true partnerships involve more than "just money".
"Make sure it's a two-way deal," he said. "Don't always have your hand out. It's your responsibility to ensure that both sides experience the benefits of the partnership."
"And show them where in their universe your enterprise fits in. You've got a much better chance of succeeding in getting sponsorship if you're not asking them to do something they're not already doing."
That was his experience when he approached Starbucks, the giant coffee firm.
"When I went to Starbucks to form a partnership I was able to very specifically lay out how this would work, for example by us tapping into their distribution networks and also into their hardware – because, let's face it, a lot of stuff breaks in kitchens."
Bob Thust, head of corporate responsibility at Deloitte, said there is a huge opportunity for big businesses in working with social entrepreneurs.
"It helps to break down silos within their own firms and provides new horizons for staff who might have otherwise never thought about innovative ways of doing business in a different way," Thust said at the conference.
Delegates at this week's Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford will also address the issues involved when linking up with big businesses.
Two sessions of "David and Goliath Revisited" will look at the essential building blocks involved and what potential tensions may arise.
Speakers include Keith Kenny, senior director at McDonald’s Europe; Rupert Howes, chief executive of the Marine Stewardship Council; Albina Ruiz, founder and president of Ciudad Saludable, and Luis Montoya, president of Latin American Beverages, PepsiCo.
The second session will include Jane Chen, co-founder and CEO of Embrace; Dorje Mundle, global head of corporate citizen management at Novartis; Paul Ellingstad, global health director at Hewlett-Packard, and Gene Falk, co-founder and president of mothers2mothers.
The sessions will be chaired by Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.