The Best Ways to Locate and Optimize Nonprofit Partnerships
Are you looking to boost employee engagement or brand loyalty? A nonprofit partnership may be the answer. Studies show that working with nonprofits can influence both engagement and branding.
It takes time and energy to negotiate meaningful nonprofit collaborations. There are also so many organizations to choose from. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. Here are a few tips you can use to find the best possible partner and get off to a great start.
Think beyond money
Money can go a long way toward helping nonprofits make an impact. However, money may not always be the most needed resource. So, don’t be afraid to think beyond your checkbook. Also, in-kind donations allow companies to donate to nonprofits when giving money is not an option.
For example, engaging in negotiations is a regular activity for nonprofits. Negotiation is a skill that often requires training to master, yet budget restrictions may make it a challenge for nonprofits to invest in proper training.
In this scenario, if your organization has an in-house training department, you could offer negotiation training. Offering skills training classes may help the nonprofit use what money they have to address other pressing funding needs.
Know what you want to get out of the collaboration
Nonprofits are not one-size-fits-all, and different organizations offer different benefits. So, before you start meeting with any nonprofits, know what you want to get out of the collaboration.
For example, let’s say your organization wants to increase its visibility nationwide. In this scenario, it makes sense to work with a national nonprofit, which may be a better fit than a local one.
When it’s time to negotiate an agreement, be clear about what benefits you expect. Clear expectations can help to eliminate or reduce miscommunication.
Understand your company’s value-add
Nonprofit partnerships are most effective when they benefit both organizations. So as you’re thinking about what you want to get, identify what you have to offer.
For example, if the nonprofit has large projects and needs volunteers, do you have enough people to help? If money is the primary need, is the company financially sound?
Understanding what your company can bring to the table can position you to help the nonprofit achieve its ultimate goal – the ability to do its best work for the benefit of others.
Look for value alignment and shared motivation
Does the nonprofit you’re interested in truly share your values? Before you negotiate a nonprofit partnership, train yourself to research the nonprofit’s history, including past partnerships and PR wins or losses. Remember to consider if the nonprofit is one that your customer base can rally behind.
Having shared values is essential when it comes to forming a partnership. A mismatch in values could lead to conflict or reputation damage.
In 2010, Komen (formerly Susan G. Komen for the Cure) partnered with KFC. The public thought the pair an odd match, and a PR crisis ensued.
Komen is the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research. As a fast-food chain, KFC is known for having many menu items that are high in fat. When you consider that research has shown that a high-fat diet and obesity are among the risk factors for breast cancer, it’s easy to see why this partnership became a PR disaster.
To find out what values an organization holds, read its mission statement. Also, meet and talk with its leaders to see if you share similar motivations. To avoid unpleasant surprises down the road, verify whatever information you find.
Encourage employees to support the company’s efforts
Employees can help to optimize nonprofit partnerships, and the benefit is two-fold. On the one hand, nonprofits can get access to skilled and professional volunteers. On the other, employees get a chance to gain knowledge and improve their skills.
Here a few ways you can encourage employees to participate:
- Create a formal corporate volunteer program.
- Offer volunteer time off (VTO), so employees don’t have to negotiate for time off or lose personal time.
- Offer any training that may help employees make the most of the experience.
- Track and reward volunteerism for boosting participation.
Take a supportive role in the partnership
In nonprofit relationships, money can sometimes cause a power imbalance. When one side holds most or all of the power, it could hamper the collaboration’s success.
One way to avoid an unhealthy power dynamic is to take a supportive role in the relationship. For example, let the nonprofit take the lead when it comes to organizing events, meetings, or negotiations.
Once you form a partnership, the next step is to nurture it so that the partnership remains positive and continues to grow. One way to nurture nonprofit collaborations is to schedule frequent check-ins.
A nonprofit partnership is ultimately a business relationship. As with any business relationship, communication can help strengthen the connection.
No one likes to feel used, so train your team to meet often with the company’s nonprofit partners – not just when the employees need something. Whenever you meet, use negotiation training tips like active listening to show you’re invested and involved in what the nonprofit’s representatives have to say.
A willingness to listen is a great way to show respect, which is a crucial ingredient in strong relationships. Furthermore, the less you talk, the more you can learn how things are going and how best you can continue to offer support.
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