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Businesses and Charities: What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

Nonprofit and for-profit organizations may have different purposes, but they can align their interests for mutual benefits. A healthy relationship between the two can accomplish what neither could alone—with the bonus of doing some good in the world.

So why should companies and charities engage in relationships? For one, it’s the right thing to do. Honest and passionate charities do their best to make the world a brighter place. From a business perspective, though, companies can enjoy when consumers recognize their social responsibility and gain brand awareness. A healthy relationship involves more than money; it demands time and effort.

What businesses should do

If you are a business owner looking to partner with a nonprofit organization, how do you go about it? You don’t want to pick one at random. Whether you are a small business, large corporation, or investor like Thomas Zaccagnino, you want to make sure that you can do something substantial for the cause.

Make a decision: Approach a charity that aligns with your business’s premise and goals. This way, the link between the two of you will create public awareness on both ends. When consumers do business with you, they want to know that some of their money is going towards a good cause. When they see the charity at work, they will have you in mind, knowing that you are partially responsible for the impact it is making.

Check outCharity Navigator before you make your decision (and you do not have to limit yourself to one organization by any means). Though most nonprofit organizations are honest and genuine, some CEOs care more about their personal expenditures. You should be honest in turn: if your relationship is to be truly symbiotic, then the mistakes of one will hurt the other as well.

Do more than donate: You should not make intermittent donations only for attention. Any healthy partnership entails helping the other member thrive. Chief executive of Encephalitis, Ava Easton,says that sustainable funding is one of her organization’s greatest challenges because it does not have the same reserves larger charities do:

“That means we do not have the resources to deliver huge campaigns, so persuading people to support us, using the personalized approach that works best for us, is time-consuming. Some 97 percent of charities are small, and we are the ones that do most of the support, yet the three percent of larger charities is where the public focus is and where the decisions are made.”

For maximum societal impact and the most influential business relationship possible, you need to help ensure that your charitable companion hascontinuous support in more ways than one. Include your employees in the process, too; maybe make it part of your company culture to spend volunteer hours with your partner. You might have expertise that your ally does not, so feel free to offer assistance with marketing strategies or brand building.

What charities should do

If you are part of a charity, your priorities lie with your cause. However, you should still fulfill your end of the bargain in a business relationship, so ask what your associate would like from you in return.

Promote your partner: If a business approaches you to engage in a relationship, make sure that they are not up to anything shady as well. Their primary goal is probably to make money, but they should still be passionate about your cause and express desire to help beyond increasing brand recognition.

Once you have a business ally that you trust, promote thehelp they provide you. Consumers want to see the impact that they are making, and you are in the position to highlight it. Find opportunities to engage the company’s employees so that your community can easily see that you are bound by more than money.

Encourage transparency: Be upfront with your partner about expenses and what it takes to make the impact you do. Do not be afraid to ask for it in return, either. Give them information regarding what programs they are supporting, what upcoming plans you have, and allow representatives to make appearances at fundraising events. If your ally is a local business, promote the difference you are making in your immediate vicinity (it’s easier for consumers to notice, and they are most likely your partner’s target audience).

Charities, especially smaller ones, do not always have consistent or predictable flows of income, so a business partner can make a world of difference. Likewise, there is nothing quite like the brand awareness that comes from making customers feel good about their purchases. Whether you are part of a business or nonprofit organization, how will you strike up a relationship with the other?