How to partner with a nonprofit

As a for-profit business, you can build brand awareness and foster goodwill when you partner with a nonprofit.

Why partner with a nonprofit?

There are many reasons why you might want to partner with a nonprofit.

  • Reputation and brand recognition. When you put your name alongside a respected public cause, you build goodwill for your company. This means that both customers and employees will become more loyal. It also builds a reputation for accountability and integrity. People love when a company can show that it has a generous person at the helm.
  • Positive media coverage at a low-cost. When you partner with a nonprofit, your logo will be seen as a sponsor at charity events. You can easily leverage that sponsorship to create stories about your community engagement for the media.
  • Sense of well-being. It has been proven that when you give yourself as well as your employees a sense that they are giving back to the community, this can improve health and bolster employee morale, retention, recruitment, and loyalty.
  • Product and service improvements. Often when a company partners with another, the chances to learn and improve are increased. When partnering with a nonprofit, you will be able to see what it’s like to work on chronically tight budgets. Tight budgets force nonprofits to innovate. Being more connected to your local community also allows you to better understand your market.
  • Professional development for employees. By giving your staff the opportunity to work within a nonprofit, you give them a chance to take risks and learn in ways that they might not be able to do in their position at your company. They can hone their skills in preparation for more responsibilities.

Why should a nonprofit partner with you?

When you begin to make connections with local nonprofit businesses that you want to partner with, it will be important to understand what benefits they will receive from partnering with you.

  • Increase funding. By partnering with you, the nonprofit will have an opportunity to increase their funding. This will likely be their number one reason for partnering with your business.
  • Expand their donor base. Show the company that they will not only be able to increase funding over the short term, but also that you will also be able to bring them more donors on a regular basis. These new donors could be your company itself or its employees. You might also choose to hold events that will bring new donors to the table.
  • Connect to new business partners. Nonprofit companies are still businesses, and they know the importance of making connections. They will want to know what connections will be possible through your company’s partnership. What networking opportunities will you make available to them?
  • Professional development for their employees. What sort of training can you offer the nonprofit’s employees that will benefit the business in the long term? A good partnership should not only include the opportunity for your employees to gain more experience, but also for their employees to learn from your more experienced staff.
  • Attract new volunteers and pro bono services. Will you be able to send the company more volunteers than they already have? Will you be able to offer them pro bono services from your employees or from other companies that you work with?
  • Increase brand recognition. Working with a nonprofit is not only a good way for your company to gain positive brand recognition, but it should also be a way for the nonprofit to get more brand recognition as well. What sort of events will be held to promote their brand? What will you do to inform your employees and customers about their business?

Guidelines for partnering with a nonprofit

Once you have decided on a nonprofit that you feel is a good fit for your business, you want to make sure you set out strong guidelines as to how the partnership is going to work.

  1. Be clear about what benefits you expect to gain from this partnership. What company interests need to be protected on both ends of the agreement, what is non-negotiable, and what do you expect your joint outcomes to be? When you sit down with the management team from the nonprofit that you want to partner with, be very clear about what you are expecting from them and understand exactly what they are expecting from you.
  2. Make sure to allocate time to build trust, respect, and understanding. Build relationships with the main contacts at the nonprofit. This is not something you should take lightly. You want your partnership to be long lasting and mutually beneficial.
  3. Develop clear roles. Who in your company is going to responsible for the different tasks that are required? Who at their company is going to be your main contact? Who else in their organization is going to be involved in the partnership? All of these roles need to be clearly defined.
  4. Communicate regularly. Like in any business, communication is key to building a strong partnership. If any differences come up, they should be dealt with quickly and carefully. If questions arise on either side, they should be addressed immediately.
  5. Assign project leaders. You should have project leaders from both your business and from the nonprofit. These leaders should have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their respective organizations. This will allow for smoother decision making, and it will mean you do not need to micro-manage the partnership.
  6. Stay flexible. As time goes on, the partnership will evolve and you need to be open to changes.

Nonprofit partnership

There are tons of different ways that you can partner with a nonprofit. One of the best things you can do for both your company and for the nonprofit is to get as many staff members involved as possible. You should never force employees to participate in events involving the nonprofit, but lead by example and try to turn it into something that people want to participate in. These are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Fundraisers. Make a generous donation as a company and as an individual and encourage your staff to participate. Set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise for the nonprofit and give rewards to individuals who donate above a certain amount.
  • Event sponsorship. As a company, you can sponsor events like fun runs or charity balls. Sponsorship would include a sizeable donation, and your company’s name would be on the event merchandise.
  • Employee volunteer programs. This sort of partnership is great if your employees want to get more involved in the nonprofit. They can spend their time volunteering for the nonprofit, whether it be a hands-on experience or assisting with the business end of things like marketing or legal help.
  • Corporate donation programs. This means donating your company’s products or services to the nonprofit or setting up a corporate foundation where you regularly fund nonprofits of a certain type.
  • Cause-related marketing. This means that you link your business’ services or products with a nonprofit cause. For example, for every sale made, you donate a portion of the profit to the nonprofit. In exchange, the nonprofit markets your company as a partner.
  • Social enterprises. This type of partnership allows your business to seek profits while still working for social improvement. For example, if your business is a restaurant in New York City, you may serve food to customers as any normal restaurant would, but you would also be training new chefs who might not otherwise get the opportunity, donating kitchen equipment to low-income families across the city, and hosting dinner events where a portion of the profits go to support the project. You would need to find a nonprofit partner who specifically works in your industry for this to work.
  • Speak at events. Speaking at events that are hosted by the nonprofit that you are working with is a great way to mutually benefit both parties. Nonprofits and charities are always looking for speakers who can train, inspire, and entertain members and large donors at fundraisers. Speaking at these events not only helps them, but it puts you in front of CEOs and other leaders, thus creating large brand awareness for your business.

Whatever way you decide to partner with a nonprofit, be sure that it’s a good fit for both parties and enjoy giving back to your local community.

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