How Businesses Can Support Nonprofits blog

We attended an event hosted by Baltimore Sports and Life earlier this week that focused on how businesses can support nonprofits more efficiently. The event featured a panel of successful Baltimore nonprofit organizations talking about their needs and best strategies for working with for profit businesses. We are here to share our takeaways for how for profit businesses can work with nonprofits.

You don’t have to just give money.

Each of the panelists emphatically said that money is not the end all be all for nonprofit giving. Many nonprofits need funding, it’s true, but they also need volunteers and in-kind donations (items you have on hand that you can donate to the organization). There are always ways to give your time to nonprofit organizations and the best way to find out what they need is to ask them!

Your employees and your business can benefit from volunteering.

Many nonprofit organizations need volunteers. The nonprofits featured on the panels all emphasized this point and how important volunteers are to the work that they do. Each panelist also discussed stories and examples of how their volunteers have become more productive at work and more dedicated to their company because of their community service. According to Brock Yetso of The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, volunteers come away with the “Three Ps”: Purpose, Perspective and Professional Development.

Franklyn Baker, President & CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland explained that their volunteers can also be a part of their Emerging Leaders United program. The ELU program works to foster leadership and team building skills within the United Way volunteers. If you are a business owner or manager looking for a way to foster leadership skills in your employees, consider creating a partnership with a local nonprofit where your team can take the lead on social impact projects.

LendEDU created a great guide for why businesses should be supporting nonprofits. From tax benefits to enriching the community, there are so many great reasons as to why a for profit business should be philanthropic.

Running a successful nonprofit is just like running a business.

Another misconception about running a nonprofit is that it is easy- do good work, collect donations, repeat. Running a successful nonprofit is just as challenging and multi-dimensional as running a business. They have overhead, marketing, measurements and evaluations, tax and legal requirements to stay on top of, just like any business.

Marty Schwartz of Vehicles for Change discussed how many government grants or public funding options require that a majority of the percentage go towards programming. He listed all the different expenses his organization has, including rent, staff payroll and more. If you are a business looking for a way to make a difference, consider asking your local nonprofit what kind of overhead bills they have that you may be able to cover. If you provide an administrative, legal or marketing service, perhaps offer that service to the nonprofit for free or a discount.

Nonprofits need to make it easy for supporters to help. Make giving back fun!

Many times nonprofits have a group of dedicated supporters that are willing to reach out to their network to support the organization. It’s important to give them easy access to the tools they need to do so. For example, let’s say an executive at a local business is a big supporter of your foundation. She wants to send an email around to his team asking others to give money to your organization around the holidays, but she’s short on time. Don’t give her a reason not to make the ask. Have template letters or emails on your website for supporters to send to friends. Create a one pager that explains what you do and some quick proof of concept stats for her to attach in her communications.

Also, make giving fun! Every nonprofit needs funds and is asking for donations. But coming up with a creative sponsorship idea can make all the difference in encouraging people to give back. Jennifer Bodensiek, President & CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland, gave an example of an event that her organization does each year. They host an “Office Olympics” similar to the one featured in the hit tv show “The Office”. Events include Keurig Cup Stacking, Office Chair Races, Paper box lifting and more. One of their sponsors donates all the office equipment, and local Baltimore businesses pay to compete for Office Olympics Gold. It’s one of their most successful fundraisers each year.

Businesses and nonprofits should be able to work together just as easily as businesses work with each other. Remember, a successful nonprofit is run just like a business. Do your diligence on prospective nonprofit partners and make sure the partnership is authentic. If your business needs help structuring their CSR initiatives, consider checking out one of our philanthropy workshops for businesses.

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