How Businesses Can Benefit from Nonprofit Partnerships

Photo by Muffett
06.07.2012By

Photo by Muffett

This is a guest post by Ken Mueller. Ken is Ken is the proprietor of Inkling Media, with 30 years of experience in the media industry. He has worked extensively in the radio industry, and is an Adjunct Instructor of Marketing at Messiah College and at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

One goal of marketing is to find something that sets you apart from your competition, and then finding a way to communicate that to your customers and potential customers. Often it’s something like a price-point, a superior product, or better customer service.

These are all well and good, but quite often they aren’t enough. Sometimes there are other intangibles that are less about your actual products and pricing, and more about your business culture that will draw people in and create loyal customers.

As I work with clients, I generally try to push them into becoming better members of their community; members that don’t just take, but also give back. I want them to be citizens that understand that what’s good for the local area is good for everyone, including their own business.

Here are a few ways businesses can turn into more than just a business by coming alongside nonprofits seeking to improve the quality of life in your community:

Turn your business into a link between your customers and local nonprofits.

We see this a lot at Christmas, but you can do it throughout the year. Make your business a drop-off point for donations to the local homeless shelter, women’s shelter, or child agency. Food, toys, and clothing, as well as money, are needed by local agencies all year long. Check with the local agencies and ask them about their greatest needs. Many of them even have donation wish lists on their web sites. Perhaps you can choose a “social mission partner” that benefits by receiving a percentage of some of your sales.

Matching funds.

Challenge your customers and employees to give to local organizations by letting them know that you’ll match those funds. This allows you to give while promoting giving from others, and it builds awareness for the organizations you choose to support.

Redirect funds.

Do you have a holiday party or summer staff picnic? Why not cancel the event, or alter it, so you can use some of those funds to help out area nonprofits?

Take it on the road.

Invite the staff or clients of local nonprofits to join you for a party or event. Maybe have your summer cook-out at the local homeless shelter, and feed more than your staff.

Take it to the street.

If you are able to raise funds, you can purchase goods to give back to the community. For instance, in the winter, work with your local homeless shelter to hand out blankets, hats, and coats on the street.

Offer services.

I’ve seen local photographers and hairdressers work together to provide portraits to those who might not be able to afford them. I know of doctors and dentists who offer their services for free to low-income residents. What services or products do you have that you can offer to make a difference?

In everything, be genuine.

Now understand, I’m not just talking about “using” the community as a marketing tactic. If your motives aren’t genuine, and are merely a means to an end, people will notice. People can see through the thin veneer of mercenary tactics. But here are some of the benefits you might just reap:

  1. It puts you and your shoppers in an “others first” mindset. It’s great at building awareness and rather than being merely mercenary, everyone is participating in helping others. Shopping becomes more about giving than receiving.
  2. It brings new people through the door of your business. There could be people who are supporters of the various nonprofits who may have never even heard of your business, let alone shop there. As the nonprofits promote your event, you’re gaining some new customers who will already have good feelings about you because you are helping their favorite cause
  3. It introduces your customers to various nonprofits. You most likely have regular customers who like to patronize your business. Those loyal customers will become more familiar with the nonprofits that you are supporting. Some of them may even sign up to get on the mailing lists of those organizations.
  4. It promotes cooperation and collaboration. The business world is a competitive world; stores are vying with one another for your money. This is a great way for a number of business and nonprofits to work together for the betterment of the overall community.
  5. It builds goodwill. There’s no denying that a business that does this will win some serious PR points. People will look at your business differently, as will the nonprofits you help. This more than makes up for any revenue you give up through the discounts and donations. This is the sort of thing that people will remember throughout the year.

How are you giving back to your community? What other ideas do you have that allows for-profits to help out nonprofits?

  • http://twitter.com/domichael Daniel O. Michael

    I would suggest two other ways for businesses to partner with a nonprofit:nn1. Become a customer. Many nonprofits run social enterprises that sell items. For example, a local retailer could buy wholesale products that a nonprofit produces. Some offer services such as packaging, janitorial, landscaping, etc.nn2. Hire from nonprofits. Many nonprofits offer qualified candidates and can arrange tax-credits and hiring incentives.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

      Both of these are great ideas, Daniel. I see some of that going on around here, and it certainly gives back to the community. Thanks!

  • Cgolds

    I manage a small non-profit. For profit businesses have helped us by sending employees to be “volunteers for the day” or for special events. One store sent all their employees to volunteer at various non-profits while the store was closed for remodeling. Another local business donated their computers to non-profits when they upgraded (we received one).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

      Those are great ideas! Just this past week one of our local coffee shops was closed for renovations. Normally, they would have to let their staff go unpaid for a week, as well as losing revenue. instead, this business decided to reach out to local non-profits and offered to pay each of their own employees for at least 8hours of work to help out the non-profits. I know it was greatly appreciated, and a great sign of community.

  • David Cybulski

    Great article! As a gift-in-kind fundraiser I find one of the best approaches to “selling” the benefits of philanthropy to businesses is to put the proposal into very simple terms outlining the “win-win” benefits. Businesses are faced every day with an open handed ask, rarely without a benefit beyond positive PR being offered in kind.nnImportant questions to consider: nn1. Can you solve a “problem” or inconvenience facing the company?nn2. Do you share a niche audience with the business which offers an innovative and meaningful avenue for the business to connect with current or potential new customers?n

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

      Great points, David. I think what a lot of non-profits forget to articulate is not just what they do for their core constituents, but what they do for the community as a whole, and for partner businesses in general. I just had a conversation with a woman from a youth center. She has to work on articulating to businesses how their work helps them: by keeping kids off the street, hopefully reducing crime, and by giving those kids a chance to become productive citizens of the community, that work, pay taxes, and spend money in the community.u00a0nnWe have to be able to get them to think of the big picture.u00a0

  • Glad2help

    Wow!!!!! These are some of the sam ideas and directive that I asu00a0a Non-Profit director have been asking of local establishments for years.u00a0 If I can give an example of how to work together that is a win/win situation.u00a0 Valentines day no available tables anywhere. We were driving around one of the small towns near our small town. We accidentally found a small restraunt and Iu00a0noticed that the have a back room that wasn’t being used. The food was great, The owner came over and gave my date and all other ladies a long stem Red Rose.u00a0 Long story short, I need a place to have a fundraising dinner meeting.u00a0 Can you set a menu with tossed or ceasar salad,u00a03 entree options, a couple of sides and your signature dessert.u00a0Yes I can do that except I donu00a0′t have a signature dessert. You will have a signature dessert when this is done.u00a0 Can you do all of that for $5 to $7 a plate, and you keep all the money from the wine and spirits bar. Yes Yes Yes.u00a0 We are closed on Sunday and Monday.u00a0 We set a date for the 3rd Sunday in the following month.u00a0 Tickets sold for $25 per plate $40 per couple no one under 21.u00a0 Silent auction, door prices, guest speakers, I stopped and gave, (The Mayors, Police Chief, Fire Chief, all school principles and the post master),u00a01 free ticket to each from the surrounding towns. They bought 1 ticket for their dates.u00a0u00a0The lastu00a0day to buy tickets is the second saturday of the month so that chef has time to prepare.u00a0 It was the most successful fundraiser for a single day event that I have ever been involved with.u00a0 The owners of the diner gave me a life time free dinner card. They told me after the event that they figured that they had 2 months left before shutting down. The people were so impressed with the food and servce that word of mouth took over and their profits have increased more than 145%.nu00a0u00a0 I am planning another dinner event The free tickets are going to go to Grocery Store managers, Convienence store clerks, Pharmacists, and The head nurses of the local hospital.u00a0 Pick people that have a steady stream of new people to talku00a0to and let human nature of word of mouth take over. u00a0

  • http://web.me.com/treacl Tony Harewood

    Through many of our Online Support Groups, some major resources have been identified: Poetry, Paintings, &u00a0Media. Through ‘Team Leadership’, we’ve been able to combine our good ideas, focus & remove wasted repeats.nnI also study Education in Early Childhood, volunteering/working with many a child-artistic-learning facility & coordinating this Support Group. We look forward to any of Ken’s guidance.

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    Thanks for the post and for making us aware how business can benefits from nonprofit partnerships.u00a0 Every business not deal in partnership like small business but than also small business can lead to promotion. The above mention tips really going to help small business in achieving their goal.

  • http://www.cafranchiseopportunities.com/ontario-franchise/ ontario franchise

    Is it true? Thanks for your suggestion. I feel grateful that I am getting over here. There are many ways to getting a high opportunity for business as well.

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