Social business, Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

By Todd Cohen

[Note: Last in a series.]

In looking for a corporate partner, nonprofits should identify business challenges that they can help a company address and that a company can help them address, experts said.

“Corporations are not these monolithic entities,” explained Katherine Smith, director of the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College. “They’re made up of people who have pressures they’re experiencing and jobs to do, and those pressures are more extreme than 25 years ago.”

If a nonprofit can figure out how to “help the company accomplish a job, or help that person in that company accomplish a job they have to do, it will be that much easier to secure support,” she said.

Including employee matching gifts, the average medium-sized company makes 1,200 to 2,000 gifts a year through its corporate giving program based on a review process managed by about six people who review two times to three times that many funding proposals, Smith said.

“As worthy as  you know your cause is, the person on the corporate side is looking at thousands of worthy causes,” she explained. “Think about how you’re different, and make sure the person in the company understands how your cause and organization are different.”

Talya Bosch, Boston-based vice president for social ventures for Western Union, which is based in Englewood, Colo., said nonprofits should move beyond the “usual suspects” in a company’s community relations department and connect with officials in other departments, such as marketing, human resources, and product development.

“If you understand what the business is trying to achieve and what the challenges are,” she explained, “you might find common ground where you can help the company achieve business goals while also achieving community goals.”

And just as companies can benefit from being linked to a nonprofit with a strong brand, nonprofits can benefit from being associated with a “credible company,” she said.

“Good will and community trust,” she explained, “can very much cut both ways.”

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofits to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

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