Corporations Share What Nonprofit Partnerships Work Best and Why
Last week, I shared six ingredients to a successful partnership. To elaborate, I spoke to corporate sponsors to find out what has worked in building their relationships with nonprofits.
What struck me foremost and is of immeasurable value is that each representative recited their nonprofit's missions! Your nonprofit's staff or board members might not know your mission statements verbatim, but your corporate partner might surprise you. Here’s what else these corporate partners had to say.
Salesforce’s Partnership With Year Up
Jennifer Stredler, vice president of workforce development at Salesforce, spoke about how she values her company’s partnership with Year Up and why it is successful, including the mutuality and the win-wins. Stredler shared:
“Our partnership with Year Up has been one of many successful nonprofit partnerships. Year Up provides motivated young adults from underserved communities with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.
“Year Up has been a partner to Salesforce for 15 years, and the tenure of our partnership has allowed us to iterate on and strengthen how we support each other for our collective success.
“While not all of our nonprofit relationships need to be mutually beneficial, it has been exciting for both parties to see our needs complement each other.
“Year Up helps us build a strong, diverse talent pipeline for Salesforce that we may not identify through other recruitment channels. This is simply a good business practice, as diverse talent provides diverse perspectives that ultimately drive business success.
“More broadly, practicing corporate responsibility effectively starts with listening to our partners. Relationships with nonprofits give us access to what’s happening on the ground, so we can best understand how to support our communities.”
Stredler from Salesforce, which according to macrotrends.net, had a revenue of $26.49 billion over the 12 months ending on January 1, 2022, had no problem telling me about Year Up’s mission. She clearly and comfortably leaned into the conversation by sharing Year Up’s mission statement.
Microsoft Tech for Social Impact’s partnership with The Contingent
Justin Spelhaug, vice president and head of Microsoft Tech for Social Impact, and Jeremy Pitman, of Microsoft CELA Digital Maturity Practice, emphasized the necessity of listening and explained how careful communication can build trust in terms of Microsoft’s partnership with The Contingent and technology partner Wipfli. Spelhaug said:
“If I had to pick a reason, I’d say it boils down to two words, listening and trust. [The Contingent has] brought together people that really care and are truly skilled at their craft — whether fundraising, leadership or community building — and it gave us great confidence in working with them.
“Our commitment is to helping nonprofits of all sizes, but we had to prove that to them, as there sometimes is the impression that Microsoft only works for large organizations. So, we needed to show them by our actions that we were listening to their needs on the ground. After all, they’re the experts on what they need most. They wanted nothing short of being a transformative agent, to go in and transform the foster care system for the betterment of everybody.”
Pitman agreed and spoke about how trust built out of solid communication can carry partners through the ups and downs in every process. He added:
“That’s right, our biggest challenge was — how do we, as a large enterprise company, meet the needs of a 30-person nonprofit in downtown Portland? It started by listening to what their needs were, and then taking that input to heart and putting it into action.
“We have learned so much over the past few years about how we can serve small but mighty nonprofits on the ground — in the communities you and I live in today. Ultimately, it’s a relationship and so you go in knowing there may be peaks and valleys, but the trust in each other and shared vision of impact together gets you through the valleys and, ultimately, benefits the communities and people the nonprofit is serving.”
Beeline’s Partnership with Mockingbird Incubator
Chris Barlow, director at Beeline, shared his unique take as both a corporate sponsor and subject matter expert by speaking about the power of natural mutuality and symbiosis. He said:
“We partner with Mockingbird Incubator because they provide unique and much-needed value to nonprofits …. Over the long run, we've been able to support one another. In other words, between our company and their organization, we've found a natural symbiosis. This symbiosis from our partnership is powerful: Even if working together didn't have any financial return from referrals, we appreciate being able to support new nonprofits while knowing it will also help us grow as a trusted company in the industry. From the beginning, it's felt like equal partners who use their different strengths to support the other.”
Barlow didn’t break form either. Like the others, he shared his chosen nonprofit’s mission statement and why he viewed it as special. As with Salesforce, the interconnectedness of a natural giving and receiving works well for Beeline.
What do these stories teach us about finding a corporate partner? All of these case studies point to each of the five ingredients I shared last week in their own ways. They emphasize what they value most in building organic and harmonious relationships. There may be other variations of the recipe that work, but those five ingredients work well together.
If you are a funder or nonprofit and have a story you’d like to share, share it in the comments.