I’ve spent a good chunk of my career working to create meaningful partnerships between for and non-profits. During this time, I’ve found out a great deal about what leads to a fruitful partnership versus what leads to a challenging one.
Many companies today yearn for more than the traditional charitable donations throughout the year, instead, they want to actively engage their employees in the community. They also want to engage their employees in volunteering that matches their skills. These are all good trends, and it makes business sense too. We know that 69 percent of millennial consumers want to know the story of businesses using their influence for social good. This, plus the fact that millennials have over $200 billion of buying power at their disposal, should be enough for any business to make the case for a more active social responsibility program.
However, while I find companies have a great deal of interest in this, I often find that they rush into a relationship in a way that ends up damaging both organizations. Today, let’s chat about 5 steps you can take at your company to ensure that you partner with the right non-profit in the right way:
1. Line up the partnership with your mission.
This is the one I see most commonly missed. Far too often, a company gives to a non-profit based on a top down approach. The leaders have some kind of personal interest in the charity, so that’s where the company donates. Companies are free to do this, but you miss out on so many potential community benefits when you fail to think about the skills and interests that your whole team could bring to a charity. For example, financial institutions often partner with Habitat for Humanity to offer financial literacy programming to families and Timberland allows its employees to allocate 40 hours of paid volunteering per year to an organization of their choice.
2. Donate expertise.
The expertise of your team can be far more valuable than a cash donation. Toyota is the world’s foremost expert on all things logistics and assembly lines. So, they had their employees lend this expertise to a massive food bank in NYC, thereby quadrupling the output of that nonprofit. Be sure to think about ways your team could similarly benefit non-profits in your area.
3. If you have a product they should be using, get them using it.
For example, a number of banks partner with non-profits focused on financial literacy. They then offer accounts with special benefits that are exclusively for families in that program. Home Depot also donates top quality materials to Habitat for Humanity. There are many more examples out there, but the point is, if you can find a tasteful way to give your product to your partner non-profit, it will only strengthen your relationship.
4. Ask your team members where and how they want to contribute.
This is one of the most commonly missed strategies, yet it is the most effective I’ve found. You really need to get your team involved in selecting the charities you’ll partner with. Or, you can do what many companies do these days and offer paid volunteer time off to allow your employees to serve at an organization of their choosing.
5. Engage your charitable partners as ambassadors.
If you’re in this for the right reasons, there’s no reason you should be afraid to build this connection in a way that also helps your brand. Invite employees of the non-profit to your events, share the story of you community work in your marketing, and be a corporate sponsor at your charitable partner’s events. The synergies created here can be very powerful when constructed in the right ways.
Ultimately, giving back is about creating a synergy between you and a nonprofit in a way that increases the impact of both entities. If you follow the steps above, you will put yourself in the elite category of businesses who build a beautiful story of service for their customers and their community.