A Sense of Community: The Benefits of the Business-Non-Profit Partnership

Analysts often preach that the goal of a business should be to set itself apart from the competition, perhaps through a better product or service or even simply by lower-cost, higher-quality tangibles. But when it comes to non-profits, what does it take to distinguish themselves among a plethora of charitable organizations? Is one specific mission any more important than another? Do potential givers react differently to causes based upon how they’re marketed? All good questions to be sure.

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Consider this: what about looking at the standard for-profit business model from a non-profit standpoint? Successful businesses often leverage a simple concept: become better members of the community and reap the benefits of increased profit in the form goodwill. How many times have you seen a local shop serving as a drop-off point for donations to a homeless shelter or food bank? Or donating a percentage of their sales to a local charity? These efforts pay dividends to the business while benefiting said non-profit and improving the quality of life in the local community. Thus non-profits should be seeking out these relationships with local businesses and demonstrating to them the value of the synergy created.

Non-profits looking to expand their public exposure and appeal should therefore strive to build bridges into the community, and here are some ways to do just that.

  • As previously stated, businesses need to distinguish themselves in the community, so approach them and tout the benefits they’ll gain from, say, being one of an elite group of local companies supporting your cause. Offer to publicize them on your website and through your social media channels as a “partner in giving.” They, in turn, will capitalize on this relationship and, ideally, promote your non-profit through their own marketing strategies.
  • If you have a business with a strong, locally-generated workforce, ask the management of said company to offer incentives to their employees for supporting your cause. One popular approach is to offer paid time off for a certain number of volunteer hours devoted to a cause. As a non-profit you reap a whirlwind of volunteer effort, and the company enjoys a nice marketing perk that minimally impacts their bottom line.
  • Along the same lines of time-off-for-hours-volunteered, consider pushing a once-a-year (or other time-limited) fundraising effort where the company matches dollar for dollar any monies raised by its employees. Again, golden marketing opportunities abound as such an effort is easy to publicize and returns a generous public profile.
  • When you approach a local business, let them know their efforts don’t need to be fiscal. If your non-profit aids low-income people, consider approaching a local physician or dentist who can offer free or discounted services. Or perhaps ask a boutique to send out a call for used clothing that can be used by someone as business attire for a job interview.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with asking for in-kind donations, volunteers or money, your partnership could be constructed in a much less formal fashion. Ask a business to help advertise a fundraising event or encourage people to support your non-profit by signing up for a mailing list.

Above all else, ensure that the businesses and companies you approach as supporters are genuine in their willingness to partner up, as both parties—you and them—should have the likeminded goal of raising awareness of a cause or effort. Always remember that you both have something to gain: each of you can strengthen your public image and, through such strengthening, gain supporters (and customers) who share good will. It’s great for you and it’s great for them. And most importantly, it’s great for the cause.

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