By Guest Columnist KAREN BEAVOR, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits
Forming strategic partnerships is one of the first lessons any good businessperson must learn.
As leader of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, which is a collaborator by definition, I’ve seen the attitudes and practices that fuel successful partnerships firsthand, especially during our annual fundraising event Georgia Gives Day.
This massive partnership brings together media leaders, businesses and corporations, government agencies, foundations and nonprofits to inspire thousands of donors to give in support of their communities.
Through the right partnerships and sharing of resources, we’ve raised more than $5 million for Georgia’s nonprofits in less than four years.
Georgia Gives Day is now in its fourth year. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that there is appetite in the corporate world for supporting and engaging nonprofits.
As companies form their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and seek to collaborate most effectively with nonprofit partners, they can take their cues from best practices employed in the nonprofit sector.
Look for the needs and passions in your community
Nonprofits form in response to the needs and desires of a specific area, population or other group. Similarly, corporations should start with their people and community when planning nonprofit engagement.
Take the pulse of your employees, empower them to take initiative and identify one or two causes where their passions intersect with your company’s brand. The most successful nonprofit partnerships are those that offer value to business objectives, connection to community and meaning to employees.
Define clear objectives
Nonprofits make the greatest impact when they clearly define what they want to accomplish and how they plan to do it. Similarly, businesses should identify what the company wants to gain from its CSR initiatives and nonprofit partnerships.
There are plenty of good reasons to engage – like establishing good will, team development or brand identity. Identify your biggest goals and how the organization will measure success.
Don’t go it alone
Nonprofits can’t survive in isolation; they require the time, talent and support of individuals and entities across the community. They even benefit from collaboration with one another, as our organization has continuously seen.
Similarly, it is critical to break a business or corporation’s nonprofit engagement out of its silo and combine CSR with operations, sales, marketing, human resources and beyond.
For example, some companies offer a product special that relates to a foundation they support. Others coordinate volunteer opportunities to help integrate new staff members into the team. Creatively leveraging CSR throughout company operations and activities will build cohesion and make the strategy feel less like a “one off” tactic.
Engage others through the most convenient channels
Over the past three years of Georgia Gives Day, we’ve learned the importance of communicating at the right place and time. Leveraging social media and enabling people to respond to our call to action via mobile unlocked a whole new level of success.
Likewise, businesses must employ the most convenient, natural channels for reaching their audience – including the public and internal teammates – with their CSR message and invitation, all in an engaging, exciting way. To deepen this engagement, businesses should even give their audience opportunities to share their involvement.
Consider creative ways to approach the problem
Most nonprofits map out and pursue numerous paths to reach their ultimate goal and mission. Similarly, companies should develop different kinds of nonprofit initiatives, thinking outside the wallet.
Many assume that engagement is primarily about giving money, but it can also mean offering specialized skillsets and sheer manpower. For example, giving time as a board member can actually pay dividends to the company because it gives new or younger employees a chance to develop leadership skills and grow professionally. It can also give companies a way to learn first-hand about new consumer audiences.
As a state, Georgia is growing. This brings a myriad of community needs with it –like child care and parks – that are supported and protected by nonprofits. Their work is crucial to making and keeping Georgia a place where people want to live, work and play. And that is good for business.
Karen Beavor has been President and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits since 1998, leading the organization’s growth into a renowned state association that empowers nonprofits through education, advocacy, research, consulting and business support services. Karen graduated from Agnes Scott College and has served as a board member or advisory board member for a variety of civic and nonprofit organizations including the Unemployment Services Trust; National Nonprofit Risk Management Center; and The Foundation Center–Atlanta