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Donating money or serving on a board of directors is not the only way business people contribute to the community. Increasingly, corporate leaders are creating meaningful relationships with nonprofit organizations through employee volunteering or corporate sponsorship programs. Although these endeavours require time and energy, they can give you access to resources that would otherwise not be available..
Here is a primer on finding and creating successful corporate partnerships.
One of your first steps should be connecting with your local volunteer centre, as they often have great resources and helpful advice related to corporate volunteerism. They could also link you to non-profit agencies who have worked with the corporate sector. Finding out what has worked for these agencies and what hasn’t could save you a headache.
Early in the game, get clear about the type of company you would like to partner with and the level of involvement you expect from them. Are you are looking for a local company, or is it more crucial that you share common causes or similar values? Are you seeking financial support only, or do you also want to engage their employees as volunteers?
Once you have gotten clear on your priorities, use business directories or other resources to create a list of companies to research (a research librarian can be a great help!). Then, research each company, starting with their LinkedIn company profile. (You can use LinkedIn to check profiles of various employees, which can help you assess whether the likely range of skills would align with organizational needs.) Of course, you should scour the company website, especially the About section, to find out more about ach company’s, values and mission statement, and the length of time they have been in business.
Remember to check whether they have adopted a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that complements your organization. If the company does not have a CSR program, try searching their Twitter feed, Facebook page as well as marketing campaigns to see which causes or issues they appear to support. You can also gain insights by reading articles and blog posts written by company leaders.
The more information you can gather about a company’s brand, the better you’ll be able to position your organization as an obvious choice for a partnership.
Once you’ve chosen a short list of companies, identify the best contact to approach, inviting them for coffee or a tour of your agency, before trying to sell them on a partnership. When you do make your pitch, touch on the many ways your organization contributes to the community; then get to the heart of your proposition by highlighting the social impact of the partnership, the way your mission dovetails with its SCR program (if it does) and other benefits to the corporation.
If you don’t feel a spark with the first company you approach, move on to the next! Although finding the right company may seem like a lot of work, the payback for your organization could be substantial.
Since volunteering is one of the best ways to increase a company’s profile, many businesses have already determined the types of causes and organizations they want to support and are actively seeking partnerships with non-profits.
If you do receive a call about a partnership, ask for time to consider their request so you can do your homework and determine whether it would be a good match. (Aim to get back in touch within a couple of days―your contact may report to a CEO or committee that is looking for quick results.) If you can’t accommodate the needs of a company, point them towards a more appropriate organization or refer them to SPARK.