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7 Steps for Finding the Right Nonprofit Partner

With so many nonprofits in the world, how do you choose the right partner for achieving your business goals while also resonating with your consumers? You might have a nonprofit you support in your personal life, but will it mean something to your professional community? How do you choose an organization that helps you engage your employees while also inspiring your customers? Is the nonprofit you’re considering interested in working with you in all the ways you want, from volunteerism, to donations, to making the most of in-kind gifts, etc.?

These are all essential questions you MUST ask before entering into a partnership with a nonprofit. These will ensure you’re supporting a mission and an organization that is truly aligned with your values, goals, and vision for a brighter future

Essential Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Potential Partner

What's the mission of the nonprofit?

Does their mission align with your business’ mission? For example, a company producing a natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage might want to partner with a nonprofit that works to reduce food waste. In this example, the work that both organizations are doing is complementary. Partnering with—say—a fund for gorilla protection, although an amazing cause, simply doesn’t work as well. At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer “why.” Why partner with THIS organization to have THIS impact? If the answer is not obvious and self-explanatory, then you may need to reconsider the alignment of the partnership.

Do your goals and culture complement one another? 

When it comes to forming partnerships, you’ll want to seriously consider collaboration style. At the end of the day, teaming up with an organization that values a similar working approach and mindset will increase efficiency and help push you to be your best. While certainly not impossible to partner with a nonprofit with a different overall approach to deliverables and projects, it could certainly make the process more difficult. For example, let’s say your business fosters an inclusive and collaborative work environment and you team up with a nonprofit that has a much more formal and regimented culture, what will it be like to work together? Will this organization provide the type of volunteer events and activities that are best suited for your company? Your employees? This is certainly worth considering.

What do your customers or clients value?

If you don’t know, ask them! Investing in a solution to a problem is always nice, but if your audience doesn’t care about the issue at hand, are you getting the most out of this effort from a bottom line and impact point of view? Figure out what matters most to your stakeholders. It’s worth the effort because, once you do, you will find that both your team and your external audiences are far more likely to jump on board with your company’s story and initiatives.

Is there equal excitement for the cause? 

Everyone involved with the project should be passionate about the partnership; your employees, the nonprofit you choose to work with, and even your audience. This will maximize the partnership’s value and create a feeling of community and cooperation. If you’ve ever been involved in projects where there is an imbalance of energy and excitement, you may know that it can lead to an unbalanced workload, subpar outcomes —even a lack of enthusiasm over time. None of these things benefit the business or the nonprofit. It’s far better to start off by making sure that everyone is aligned, motivated, and eager to get started.

Are the goals transparently defined? 

Whenever partnering with a nonprofit, it is important to understand shared end-goals. Your business and the nonprofit need to have the same target (or, at the very least, similar targets), and these need to be transparent and clearly defined from the very beginning. If you are okay with putting money into a cause you and your staff believe in, that’s great. However, if you want the nonprofit to support, for example, a limited-edition product or use their logo to increase donations and create awareness for your brand, you must have a clear memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Is the organization financially sound?

To start, have they been vetted? As much as we’d like to think that any organization claiming to be a nonprofit is in good standing, the truth is, this is not always the case. For this reason, EarthShare thoroughly vets any nonprofit applying to become a Nonprofit Partner in our network, verifying charity status, financial, and governance aspects. (An automatic perk you can take advantage of if you choose to work with one of our nonprofits!) The vetting process will also help you confirm whether your company values and the values of the nonprofit are closely aligned.

The nonprofit should be registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) for the business partner to receive tax benefits; something that will be confirmed through vetting. You can then view publicly available Form 990 reporting which will provide an annual snapshot into whether the nonprofit is currently financially stable. Ideally, when you create partnerships, you’re building something for the long-term. You need to know if your partner will be there to collaborate in the years ahead.

Four Principles for Successful Collaboration

Integrity, passion, excellence, and commitment.

When it comes to selecting a nonprofit partner, choosing an organization that possesses these traits and fits your company’s and employees’ beliefs will lead to an authentic partnership that resonates both internally and with your consumers.

An authentic and well thought-out charitable partnership will be positive for a company’s position within the marketplace, boost employee satisfaction, and promote financial growth. Leveraging tools that help develop these relationships, such as those provided by EarthShare’s Giving & Engagement Platform, will allow you to not only engage your employees, but market and create true relationships with nonprofits.

Have questions about an existing partnership? Curious if there is an organization within the EarthShare network that is right for you? Reach out to us at [email protected] for support.

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