The business climate is changing. No longer is it acceptable for a corporation to just make a profit.
Now consumers expect businesses to be good corporate citizens as well. That means more opportunities for nonprofits to build mutually beneficial relationships with companies seeking to contribute more than just products and services.
A recent internet search for the term “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) generated over 125 million hits. It’s a hot topic—and for good reason. Businesses are facing increasing pressure, from both consumers and employees alike, to mitigate their environmental impact, treat their workers fairly (all up and down the supply chain) and to give back to the communities in which they operate. No longer is profit alone the standard of success. People are voting with their wallets, and their feet, for companies that sincerely address the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
As a result, many companies are looking for opportunities to support causes that resonate with their firm’s values, are relevant to their customer base and have a positive long-term impact. They are starting to realize that they need to engage their customers and their employees in the process. They see the need for this effort to be more than just “green-washing”, but rather a sincere contribution to the betterment of their communities. And they are eager to share stories about the work they are doing.
All of this helps you, as a nonprofit.
Look around at the companies in your community and find out what interests them. Don’t overlook smaller businesses, as they are under the same pressure as the large ones, just on a different scale. Look for points of resonance and alignment. If your nonprofit works in housing, can you partner with a building supply company? If your work is in education, which companies serve your students and their families?
Think about these alliances in creative ways. Sure, a direct donation is great. But how can you build a long-term relationship? What about volunteer opportunities for the company’s employees? What about pro-bono work from a professional firm? What about in-kind donations? How can you connect your constituents with the employees of the company and help build personal connections? How can you leverage this alliance to create more media exposure (traditional and social media) for both parties?
In talking with businesses, it’s important to speak the language. There’s a compelling business case for Corporate Social Responsibility. Benefits include:
- Happier employees who have a deeper sense of purpose, motivation and loyalty.
- Better employees, as they have opportunities to develop new skills and capacities.
- The ability to attract better talent.
- Improved reputation, both in the community and among the company’s peers, competitors and suppliers.
- The ability to attract new customers and improve relations with existing customers.
- Increased sales.
As the world shrinks to a single global neighborhood, none of us can afford to think that our actions have no impact. For corporations, this is even more true. Imagine what can happen as the incredible energy and ingenuity we’ve poured into our businesses starts to align with causes of all kinds that aim to make the world a better place. Just think what we can accomplish together!
What is your experience in developing strategic relationships with businesses? What approaches work best in talking with companies? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.