5 Keys to Successful Nonprofit Partnerships

partnership3A company’s chief goal is profits, but how those profits are earned is a legitimate concern for customers and the public at large. The environmental impacts of manufacturing and production, a company’s treatment of its workforce and its stance on issues affecting its industry can affect a brand’s public image and, ultimately, its profits.

Engaging with a highly informed public means that communicators must always be aware of their brand’s reputation. It also means being open to new opportunities to enhance that reputation. One such method is through establishing CSR partnerships.

Here are five tips for creating successful partnerships with nonprofit organizations, courtesy of Mike McDougall, president, McDougall Communications.

1. Define Your Giving Priorities. In the absence of clear direction as to what types of causes you’ll support, your dollars will be dispersed over a too-wide range of groups. This weakens the impact your gift has on
reputation and provides too little concentration of dollars for sustained impact.

2. Consider Your Desired Outcome. What do you want to accomplish with your grant or volunteer commitment? Both the funder and recipient should gain from the partnership, although perhaps using different metrics to determine success. Don’t forget to specify a time frame—short-term funding means little if your outlook spans multiple years.

3. Consult Your Finance/Tax Colleagues. Pull your company’s finance group, especially its corporate tax experts, into the planning process. Depending on how tangible you expect your returns to be, that could influence your tax strategy, or vice versa. To avoid critics, don’t wait until the program is already running to surprise the finance team.

4. Openly Share Your Expectations With Nonprofits. Once you’ve got your house in order, resist the urge to make potential partners guess your intentions. This isn’t an exercise in mind reading—you want applicants to be successful. Lay out your grant criteria online, and make sure that you review it in detail during exploratory meetings with nonprofits.

5.  Stick to Your Guns. Some proposals just don’t make the cut, whether for a lack of strategic alignment, inadequate resources for sustainable results or other criteria that remain unmet. While most can be reviewed and politely declined, there will always be a few that seem to merit special consideration.

Dave Daigle, the CDC's lead communicator, will be the keynote presenter at PR News' CSR Awards luncheon on March 12 in Washington, D.C.

Follow Mike McDougall: @McDougallPR

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell