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Purpose-driven business continues to be a definitive aspect of today’s culture, and partnering with a nonprofit remains one of the best ways for companies to demonstrate their commitments to the public. At their best, these partnerships can create a powerful synergy between the company and the nonprofit, boosting the business’ bottom line while simultaneously supporting important social causes.
However, not all nonprofit partnerships are able to easily achieve this balance. Effective partnerships are not born out of pure goodwill and dedication to the cause–they need to be implemented using good business sense. When strategically integrated into a more general growth plan, partnerships with nonprofit organizations can be enriching for both parties.
Planning and Purpose
There is a common misconception that philanthropic efforts are something separate from a business itself, a simple way of giving back to important causes and underserved communities. In reality, nonprofit partnerships are part and parcel of a business’s growth strategy, and they better serve the greater good when they are treated as such. Effective nonprofit partnerships grant businesses increased exposure and generate consumer trust and goodwill, resulting in increased sales. The more profitable the business is, the better positioned it is to support charitable efforts, creating a positive feedback loop from which both parties stand to benefit.
Nonprofit partnerships have the added benefit of bolstering company culture and staff participation. One of the ways that partnerships can prove ineffective is when they are imposed from the top down, without consulting employees first. By contrast, when business leaders make a point of polling and meeting with their staff to determine which causes are the most meaningful to them, they can make more informed choices that really resonate with their workforce.
When employees feel that their work directly contributes to a purpose, they are more likely to be deeply engaged in it. Nonprofit partnerships help clarify a company’s mission and demonstrate that it is serious about its values, which enhances company culture and improves staff well-being. Providing benefits such as paid time off to employees who take the time to volunteer with a nonprofit is a wonderful way to strengthen relationships both within and beyond the organization.
While the benefits of partnering with nonprofits are enough to make most business leaders jump at the opportunity, it is absolutely crucial to proceed with a sensible strategy. The ins and outs of effective nonprofit partnerships are not always intuitively obvious, so it is imperative to make thoughtful, considered choices that are organically connected to the business’s overall strategy.
One of the main things to remember is to start local. Sometimes, when considering a partnership, business leaders initially look to the organizations they are most familiar with, which can often be national or even global in scope. While it can’t be doubted that these organizations are doing great work, their sheer size can make it difficult for consumers to feel the kind of intimate connection that comes with being able to directly see the tangible products of their support. For that reason, partnering with an organization or cause located in your city helps make the partnership’s impact more visible and increases your business’s presence and prestige in its local community.
In a somewhat similar vein, specificity should always come before scope. Telling your target audience that your business is “helping stop climate change” is not nearly as impactful as showing that you have partnered with local artists or the local school board to promote climate change awareness and education. Instead of focusing your messaging on targeting big-picture problems, start by highlighting the impact you are having in your immediate community and then relate that to the larger issues at play. This prevents your messaging from coming across as too abstract and grand, and demonstrates that your business is committed to concrete action rather than vague pronouncements.
Once you have settled on an effective partnership with an appropriate scope and a clear connection to your company’s values, it’s time to begin crafting an effective marketing and PR campaign. The most effective PR campaigns for these kinds of partnerships do not treat the business element and the nonprofit element as existing in isolation, but integrate the nonprofit component into the company’s pre-existing PR strategy. This helps make the partnership appear as an organic outgrowth of the company’s mission rather than an arbitrary attempt at creating a positive image.
One of the main concerns that prevents people from donating to or working with nonprofits is the perception that their money is not actually going to the cause itself. Transparency is a fundamental part of building up public trust, and it should be the primary focus of any PR campaign. Whether you are sending a special newsletter, airing commercials, or making posts on social media (or, even better, all of the above), try to make a point of showing statistics that demonstrate your company’s impact on the community and sharing stories of employees who have given their time to make a difference.
Making or soliciting purely monetary donations is helpful, but it does not secure the same trust and dedication that actively supporting and participating in your community does. Using PR to raise awareness about fundraisers or events being put on by your company and/or partner shows that your company is willing to put not just money, but also time and effort behind the causes it champions. These actions show that your company’s dedication to the cause is not just skin-deep, but an essential part of its DNA. Individuals who perceive the company as trustworthy and authentic are much more likely to develop strong brand loyalty.
Effective nonprofit partnerships are perfect examples of a win-win situation. They promote the growth of businesses while simultaneously empowering nonprofits to spread their message and improve their reach. They promote goodwill among employees and the public and help your brand stand out from the competition in a way that truly speaks to people, fostering long-term relationships that extend beyond the merely transactional. Using effective business strategy to maximize the effectiveness of your partnerships is a perfect example of how your company can stand up for its values while also increasing its value.
About The Zain Jaffer Foundation
Zain Jaffer is the Founder of the Zain Jaffer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to creatively address the big-picture issues of our time. The Foundation supports emerging programs and projects that bring public awareness to problems such as climate change, poverty, exploitation and discrimination.
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