In the modern business landscape, however, quickly cutting a check to a worthy charitable cause is only scratching the surface of what the union of businesses and nonprofits can produce. This article will highlight what businesses and nonprofits stand to gain when they join forces while providing substantive tips on how businesses should approach such potential partnerships.
First things first: what, exactly, do businesses and nonprofit organizations have to offer one another? From the perspective of a nonprofit, one of the most obvious benefits that a business partnership brings is resources. Businesses often represent a direct injection of capital into a nonprofit’s coffers, but the resources provided don’t necessarily have to be monetary.
Consider the following scenario: a nonprofit made some money during their activities over the year, and is struggling to find qualified help during tax season to help them balance their books. They’re going to need a professional to help them determine which profits are taxable and which aren’t. A well-connected business, then, could finance its own accountants to help out, or even help attract volunteers with the right nonprofit experience and skills. Because of the various tax requirements, nonprofit accountants need to be more familiar with processes like auditing and media research.
Examples like this highlight how businesses can supercharge a nonprofit’s abilities on a short-term basis, and there are even additional long-term benefits that nonprofit organizations might enjoy from their partnership with a profitable business, such as improved employee development, increased brand recognition, and access to reliable long-term donors.
As for the business perspective, if for no other reason, nonprofit partnerships are valuable because they can increase sales. Customers, on average, prefer businesses with values. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of American consumers will buy a product because a company publicly shares its stance on an issue, while 76% will refuse to purchase from companies with differing values. Nonprofit partnerships are often seen as being reflective of the values held by consumers and are thus a natural choice for businesses.
Sales aren’t the only possible benefit to be had for businesses, however. Just like nonprofits, pairing up with the right partner can help strengthen the brand image of a company. It can potentially provide a pathway to new business opportunities and even help improve the satisfaction of employees, who may contextualize the partnership as a socially responsible action (and subsequently correlate their employment as having a net positive social impact).
There’s much to gain from both sides, but what are some specific ways that businesses can come to the aid of nonprofit organizations? Fundraisers are one example that allow businesses to make the most direct contribution, but there’s potential for the corporate-nonprofit bond to go much deeper. Take the adoption of employee volunteer programs (EVPs), for instance …
These managed efforts to promote community service among corporate employees, according to noted volunteer service Points of Light, are also a way for corporate entities to champion societal causes. EVPs show a business’s values in action, and their measurable impacts make them easy to adapt to constantly changing conditions and scale as needed.
Similarly, businesses can engage in cause-related marketing to give a huge public push toward a particular issue or objective. Executed well, such campaigns have the potential to bring a cause before a previously unexposed audience, while simultaneously improving the images of the associated business and nonprofit entity involved.
And the list of ways in which businesses can contribute to nonprofit objectives goes on, including (but not limited to) event sponsorships and speaker series geared toward a particular goal, corporate donation programs (for products and services instead of money), and social enterprises that balance profit-seeking with the goal of social improvement.
There’s much to be gained from corporate-nonprofit partnerships, but establishing and maintaining them long-term requires significant consideration for potential hurdles. Parties being upfront about what they expect to gain from any proposed partnership, for example, is paramount for long-term success. Both corporate and nonprofit entities should be sure that their values align, that they have clearly defined roles within the context of the partnership, and should know which party is responsible for what activities and actions.
As with any partnership, establishing cooperation is key, but efforts to build trust and respect should not be rushed. Rather, building rapport should be done in a patient and methodical manner that combines clear and frequent communication with a solid understanding of the ground rules governing the partnership.
Lastly, for any partnership to stand the test of time, both parties will need to stay flexible and be open to changes. By maintaining a means of tracking the efficacy of joint initiatives, it will be easier to spot disruptive trends before they have an irreversible impact, then make smooth decisions about how the union should adapt to new situations.
Both businesses and nonprofits looking to join forces should keep these important considerations in mind, and strive to forge bonds that will lead to lasting social change and sustainable business outcomes for all. You just might attract new customers too.