Guest post by Kayla Matthews
Corporate volunteer programs offer an incredible opportunity for nonprofit organizations to partner with businesses to advance awareness of and raise money for their cause. A nonprofit liaison with a company creates a situation where everyone wins: the nonprofit gets the assistance it needs while the business benefits from building their brand and generating positive impressions throughout the community.
Choosing the right business or businesses to partner with, however, is critical. You need to partner with an organization whose values mirror your organization’s goals. Also, you may need to organize your volunteer engagement program, so it’s simple for corporate volunteers to jump in and get to work.
Choosing the Right Company to Partner With
Finding the perfect corporate partner can be tricky. These days, it’s very common for successful businesses to support at least one charitable cause, so you might feel overwhelmed when narrowing down the list of companies you would like to approach about developing a partnership.
One suggestion is to create a list of potential business partners in your community. Start by writing down the names of about 15 to 30 businesses who may make good partners. Then eliminate certain ones based on specific criteria. For example, if your nonprofit is in a rural area, proximity may be a major limiting factor.
You may also need to do further research to determine if the company shares your organization’s goals and mission. Find their corporate social responsibility statement, where they describe the impact they hope to make in their community. Most businesses will list this on their website.
If that fails, try researching the charitable interests of the CEO and executive members of the board. Thanks to social media, this can be as simple as visiting their profiles to determine their values and any causes they support.
Making Your Move
Once you have identified a for-profit corporation you may like to partner with, it’s time to break the ice.
Your first meeting with the company should be kept casual. Simply introduce your nonprofit and its mission, and try to find common ground by discussing why you are passionate about your cause. It may take one or two casual meetings before you feel comfortable enough to make your pitch for a partnership.
At the second or third meeting, come prepared. Show the CEO or another leader at the company exactly how the partnership will be mutually beneficial. Have the plans for how the collaboration will work at the ready.
The last thing you want to do is put another item on a business owner’s already full plate in the form of making them organize the project. Welcome their input, of course, but be ready to spearhead the project.
Case Study: A For-Profit and Nonprofit Partnership That Works
One example of a wildly successful corporate partnership is the new liaison between Food Lion, a for-profit grocery chain, and the Albemarle Food Pantry. In advance of the Albemarle Food Pantry’s grand opening, grocery giant Food Lion fully stocked their pantry for opening day.
This is a perfect example of where the mission of the nonprofit matched that of their corporate partner. The Food Pantry works to eliminate hunger in their community, and the Food Lion has committed to hunger-relief by donating 500 million meals by 2020.
Your nonprofit can find a match like this one, too. For example, if your purpose is to expand healthcare access to rural communities, you will likely want to to partner with local healthcare providers. Or if your organization’s goal is to build tiny homes for the homeless, partnering with a general contracting or construction company would be a fantastic match.
Remember That People Make the Difference, So Treat Your Partners Well
A bit of tact and diplomacy go a long way toward creating lasting relationships, especially in business situations. Instead of nitpicking over minor errors, praise the excellent job your new partner and their employees are doing for you.
A great way to create a welcoming environment is to survey your partner. Welcome their ideas — they may have creative ones you would never have thought of. You can also find out what each team member’s strength is and delegate the work accordingly.
Nothing can ruin a winning partnership faster than creating a toxic atmosphere with behaviors such as downplaying your partner’s suggestions for a way to help or tyrannically demanding that the work is done your way or not at all.
Remember, people are motivated to volunteer for a variety of excellent reasons. Take care not to crush your new partner’s enthusiasm for your cause by being domineering!
We are stronger together than we are alone, and the marriage between the for-profit industry and the nonprofit world can be extremely beneficial for both parties. Waste no time in finding corporate partners who will work with you to further your mission and create a better world for all.