What would you do if a customer paid an invoice with $500 in pennies? What about 100 used pencils or a truckload of pumpkins? For nonprofits in our community, these are real situations that community leaders have had to contend with. I can tell you the stories.
Things like this happen from a place of good intentions but are executed with a lack of thought and strategy that results in a tough situation and undue burden for the nonprofit receiving the unrequested gift.
As we approach the holiday season and many business leaders are planning ways to give back before year-end, now is the time to pause and consider how corporate giving can go beyond an annual collection of canned goods to ongoing partnerships with as many benefits for the giver as the recipient.
Thanks to the critical role the nonprofit sector plays in strengthening our community and economy, strategic business partnership offers corporate leaders the opportunity to align with their customer base, enrich the lives of employees, generate positive publicity and reach target demographics, in addition to helping the local community, just to name a few.
As you evaluate how to be an effective corporate partner for the nonprofit sector, consider the following strategies:
- When considering gifts of funds, evaluate providing flexible or general funding that gives nonprofits the freedom to align resources with their own organizational and community priorities. Businesses understand that adaption, flexibility and financial stability are important qualities of successful business – the same goes for nonprofit organizations.
- It’s always important to remember that funding helps make a nonprofit organization more attractive to other potential funders. Corporate partners are uniquely positioned to invest in efforts that position organizations to attract additional support in the future.
- Corporations can also encourage individual employee giving, volunteering and service through a matching gifts program and comp time for nonprofit service (board or volunteering) as well as partnering with nonprofits to recruit business leaders for boards of directors.
- Think about filling a need or area of expertise that an organization doesn’t have and likely can’t afford. For example, Michelle Zechman, CEO of Haven House, shared that they were in the process of trying to buy a new building and knew they needed lots of expertise. About a year before they got started, they pulled together a group that included a real estate attorney, vice president from a major property company, partners from an architecture firm and a commercial real estate broker. She shared that their expertise was invaluable throughout the process and added incredible value to the organization and the lives of their partners.
- Other investments can look like gifts of leadership trainings or seminars, technology, financial education and strategic planning support that can be difficult for nonprofits to secure but has a tremendous impact on an organization’s long-term ability to serve the community.
Ultimately, if you want better social outcomes, nonprofits need room to evaluate existing efforts, room to experiment with new approaches, investment in scaling proven services and freedom to undertake new bold efforts to move the bar.
Successful corporate partnerships help nonprofits do just that while paying dividends to the business.