A Nonprofit Guide for Corporate Partnerships
The past year has been an inflection point for businesses and social impact. CEOs turned into “social warriors,” employee activism proliferated across the U.S. and companies faced the financial consequences of “cancel” culture. As a result, businesses across all industries have bolstered their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and are consistently seeking strategic nonprofit partners and social impact experts to work with — not only to generate the utmost shared value for society, but to benefit their businesses’ bottom line, too.
The notion that companies need to give back to their employees, communities and the planet isn’t new, but now it’s quickly becoming the norm. In light of the Business Roundtable’s memo on the purpose of a corporation and the World Economic Forum’s focus on stakeholder capitalism, the most progressive companies are shifting their focus to generate shared value — an incredibly exciting prospect for nonprofits committed to advancing social innovation.
As a serial social entrepreneur, I’ve spent over three decades forming and facilitating effective relationships between companies and nonprofit organizations (NPOs). To forge enduring, successful and mutually beneficial partnerships, here are three factors NPOs should take into consideration as they identify companies to collaborate with:
Precisely Track, Measure and Report Performance Metrics
Across the board, data is the most important commodity for companies and nonprofits, particularly when it comes to tracking their spend and quantifying their ROI. While the majority of businesses tend to measure their success using economic metrics, nonprofits quantify success using a variety of other indicators — including the societal value generated by their various programs and the fiscal catalysts enabling the NPO to efficiently mobilize its resources.
To bridge the gap between the discrepant performance metrics used by companies and nonprofits, an NPO must closely track the metrics used to measure its progress toward achieving its mission. Every nonprofit uses different metrics to measure its progress.
For instance, Nurse-Family Partnership — a community health nonprofit that helps transform the lives of vulnerable, low-income mothers pregnant with their first child — measures its success by the reductions in child abuse, ER visits for accidents, behavioral problems and arrests of the mother and child in its teen years.
As companies continue to mine data on every aspect of their routine operations, their nonprofit partners will be held to the same standards when it comes to their performance metrics to demonstrate a program’s ability to create value for its beneficiaries, and society more broadly. This not only allows nonprofits to gain greater credibility, but it also gives the companies they work with meaningful metrics to showcase the social impact generated per dollar invested.
Understand the Company’s Mission, KPIs and Pain Points
To form partnerships that are successful for both organizations involved, nonprofits should select corporations with aligned missions to their own. For instance, a thorough understanding of the company’s consumer profile and the causes they care about can work to the nonprofit’s advantage when it comes to selecting a mutually beneficial partner.
Take Stasher’s partnership with Rainforest Alliance, which reflects the brand’s dedication to environmental protection. Through this donation-matching initiative, Stasher — the producer of reusable silicone bags — proved its sustainability initiatives stretch beyond the elimination of single-use plastics by funding a nonprofit committed to protecting the critical ecosystems that support life and the planet’s wellbeing.
In addition to selecting corporations with aligned missions, nonprofits should also understand the prospective company’s pain points and identify innovative ways to co-create solutions that benefit the business and society at-large.
For example, Google is working closely with the Trevor Project — the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth — to incorporate machine learning and natural language processing into its crisis services, which can help save the lives of LGBTQ youth by supporting them by phone, chat and text. Through this partnership, Google not only shows how artificial intelligence can be applied to advance social innovation, it also simultaneously advances its commitment to diversity and inclusion — both inside and out of the office.
Amplify Impact by Supporting Key Functions Across the Company
By leveraging the power of social impact as a key business differentiator, nonprofits can also enhance a company’s performance across a range of key business functions — from human resources, to marketing and communications, and even investor relations.
For example, take the fact that 88% of Millennials find their job more fulfilling when they have opportunities to make a positive impact on society and the environment. By working with the company’s HR team, nonprofit leaders can help improve employee satisfaction and retention rates, and help with hiring efforts by sharing the story of the organization’s impact made possible by the company’s support.
These social impact stories can also help shape the company’s marketing and communication strategy to showcase how the organization is walking the talk when it comes to driving positive, tangible change.
Nonprofits can even help investor relations teams. By precisely tracking the impact generated using the corporation’s financial support, companies can enhance their environment, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reports for premier sustainability agencies, which can improve the rating and, ultimately, help the company attract new investors. This is a major incentive for companies, considering the fact that ESG investing is expected to reach $50 trillion over the next two decades.
Ultimately, by precisely measuring its success indicators, nonprofits can bring new value to companies by advancing their mission, softening their pain points and bringing new value to various arms of their business — generating new value for the business, the nonprofit and, most importantly, its beneficiaries.
Paul Polizzotto launched Givewith® in 2016, with the vision of rethinking the intrinsic power of commerce as an engine of world-wide social change. Over his 30-year career as a social entrepreneur, Paul has dedicated himself to developing, refining, and realizing the vision at the heart of Givewith: that by prioritizing social impact, businesses can deliver a sustainable source of funding for the critical work of nonprofits and differentiate themselves from the competition, driving sales, increasing profits and raising share prices.
He brings his expertise as the former founder of EcoMedia, which was sold to CBS Corporation in 2010. Under Paul’s leadership, EcoMedia directed more than $100 million in funding and resources to environmental, education and community health and wellness programs across the country, improving the quality of life for more than 60 million people.