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Developing a relationship with a non-profit partner can provide your company with a number of benefits; one is an enhanced and more visible image within your community.
The public's desire to support companies who back social causes has been on the rise during the past several decades. Last fall after the tragic events of September 11th, this desire was at an all time high with 92% of Americans having a more positive image of companies and products that support causes - up from 81% in March 2001 as measured by the Cone/Roper 2001 Corporate Citizenship Survey.
These statistics can't be ignored. But it is important not to rush into a non-profit partnership (NPP) just because it will help your company image. A partnership is only successful when both sides benefit from a sincere desire to assist each other. There is great risk if the public perceives a company's community efforts as self-serving and not sincere. Also, careful management of a partnership is required for ultimate success: a stronger company image.
How does a company demonstrate a sincere desire to help a social cause?
Developing a Social Responsibility Statement, which documents a company's social values, and why it supports a specific cause, will communicate to company stakeholders the relevance of your partnership. Sincere desire is also demonstrated by a significant resource commitment by a company, which includes: executives' leadership, employee volunteer time, and cash and/or in-kind donations. Research has shown that cash alone is viewed as self-serving and won't provide the improvement of your company's image you are looking for. Finally the length of the NPP is an important component in demonstrating to the public your sincere commitment to a specific non-profit organization. It is very common for corporations to partner with nonprofits for three years or longer.
What Non-Profit Organization should you partner with?
There are thousands of non-profit organizations in the world. Based on the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Guide, five key areas need to be evaluated to determine the right partner for you. They are: mission and values of the organization, financials, board governance, operational efficiency, and organizational strength. Companies will generally create an employee volunteer team to conduct the evaluations, which in itself can have hidden benefits of increasing employee morale and developing team-building skills. Below is an evaluation checklist that an employee team can use.
Once you have identified two or three potential partners, a final meeting is needed to present your proposal to them. This proposal will include an introduction of your company, why you are considering the nonprofit and a description of the proposed partnership with specific goals and benefits that will be the result of the partnership. One of these goals should be an enhanced company image.
Factors in successfully managing a non-profit partnership
After you have created the partnership, successful management of the partnership will be critical to meeting the defined goals and reaping the benefits. Several key factors are involved in managing the NPP. These factors include a management team represented by areas of the company that will benefit from the partnership such as marketing, public relations, and human resources as well as a senior member of the nonprofit. Also a key executive (preferably the CEO) should be visible during the partnership.
Integrating two key processes between organizations, communications and measurements, is another factor. In order to effectively communicate between both parties a communications process needs to be developed and deployed. A sound measurement system to measure results needs to be consistent across organizations as well so both organizations know how they are performing against their goals. Finally review the partnership on a consistent basis and document the lessons learned.
As your company becomes successful with its nonprofit partnership, you may be ready to take on another partnership. When this time comes remember to use the lessons learned during the creation and development of your first partnership to insure the new partnership's success.
Partnering with a nonprofit can provide a company with not only an enhanced company image but also the process can be fulfilling to the team when goals are met. Careful attention to the process of choosing your partner and then managing the partnership will provide your company with the goals you are looking for as well as having a positive impact on your non-profit partner.
Many more articles in Public Relations in The CEO Refresher Archives