Cause Blog

How to choose a nonprofit partner, Part 4: Best Practices with your new partner.

By Ed Lord
 

This is part four of our five-part series on choosing a cause partner. You can start the series here. Now that you've chosen your nonprofit partner, here's how to get thing off to a great start.

Once both your company and the nonprofit have agreed on a partnership, you really need a game plan that will quickly build on that relationship. Here are some best practices that will create an environment where the creativity of both sides can flourish, ultimately leading to a more effective plan of action and a bigger impact on the cause:

  • Introduce your staff to their staff.
  • Invite the nonprofit to visit your company and attend a board meeting. 
  • Meet regularly.
  • Ask for deeper involvement.
  • Give their employees access to your employees.
  • Do joint announcements. 
  • Turn customers into supporters and supporters into customers.
     

Introduce your staff to their staff.

The once-a-year giving of that big-fake-check-to-charity is a photo op, not a relationship. The companies performing best at Cause Marketing are working closely with their nonprofit partners, finding innovative ways they both can serve the cause. The more your company and your partner organization meet face to face, the more it will benefit both of you. When you hear “I didn't know you that you did that” from someone on your staff or theirs, you know that opportunities to help each other are becoming more obvious to everyone. 

Invite the nonprofit to visit your company and attend a board meeting. 

Take a field trip to see what their organization does first hand. The more people that are involved on both sides, the better. These days, the social media opportunities that these kind of meetings offer (with tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos) can spread so much deeper into your stakeholder base that it puts all your past charity photo ops to shame.

 
The once-a-year giving of that big-fake-check-to-charity is a photo op, not a relationship.
 

Do everything you can to get a good working relationship going. The more involved the cause and company are, the more likely your employees will want to be involved and the more likely the organization will talk up your company. 

Meet regularly.

Meeting with the organization is not a one-time thing. Quarterly or monthly meetings that are well attended by both sides help keep the communication channels open and make you feel like you’re a vital part of each other’s business. It’s important that each side has a thorough understanding of what the other does. These should be real meetings and not just a formality. Give each meeting an agenda and invite any of your employees who want to attend. Part of what the organization expects from you is access to volunteers, so the more employees you have that are interested, the better.

Ask for deeper involvement.

If your company is going to be a big contributor, you need to get involved with the nonprofit in more ways than just writing a check. Find out what volunteer opportunities the nonprofit may have and promote these among your employees. Find out if it’s possible for someone in your corporation to become a board member and what type of board members they need. Match an executive with a board opening and ask that he or she be nominated for it. Make sure any executive that becomes part of the board will show up at their board meetings. Your company shouldn’t take this as a ceremonial position or the nonprofit will come to treat your commitment with them as ceremonial.

Give their employees access to your employees.

If you’re heavily involved with your nonprofit partner and generate a lot of money for them, it can be useful to get them involved with your company. Have the nonprofit’s staff do lunch-and-learns, presentations and write articles in your company communications. This makes the organization visible to your employees and customers on a regular basis and provides benefits for the company. For instance, a health charity can help provide advice on healthy lifestyles that can translate to fewer sick days.

Do joint announcements. 

When you’re well aligned with your nonprofit partner you should do more than just stick their logo next to yours. When the opportunity arises, send out joint press releases, or at least quote each other in press releases when appropriate. Opportunities to publicly present yourselves together draws more of an audience than either organization alone can draw.

 
Meeting with the organization is not a one-time thing. Quarterly or monthly meetings make you feel like you’re a vital part of each other’s business.

 

Joint communications can be extended to a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram account and joint website. This makes the conversation and relationship very visible. Make sure you set expectations on who will post and maintain. The worst thing that can happen is that these vehicles languish. That can make it look like neither side cares about the relationship.

Turn customers into supporters and supporters into customers.

A key goal of your program should be for you to introduce your customers to the nonprofit as potential supporters and for them to introduce their supporters to you as potential customers. When company and cause are tightly aligned this can work very well, since their supporters can logically have an interest in your brand.

It’s of benefit to your organization to set clear expectations and then exceed them. 
Both sides should know up front what’s expected of the other. And it’s important that you’re willing to go that extra little bit in the relationship. When opportunities arise to take that extra step for the cause, do it.

Our next article is the final one in the series and covers so practical tips to help you in your selection process.