Strategy, development & support for coalitions, associations, organizations and initiatives

Austin Gives is a great community program that recognizes and encourages local business philanthropy, and we are very proud to support the initiative. Last month, Sam co-facilitated the Austin Gives “Faster, Better Biz Philanthropy” workshop designed to help businesses navigate the nitty gritty details of developing effective philanthropy plans. With 25 businesses in attendance, the event was a success! Read on to hear from Sam about how nonprofits and businesses can work together in ways that benefit the organization and their clients, as well as the company and their staff.

1. What is the first step a business should take to start a business philanthropy program?

Each business needs to Identify its own core values and its motivations and desired outcomes for engaging in philanthropy. Businesses can have different motivations including the desire to: make a difference in the community, engage employees, increase visibility, and increase revenue and market share. Once a business has determined why it wants to give, then it needs to decide if and how it wants its philanthropy goals to align with its business goals. For many businesses there is a natural alignment between their core business functions and those of a nonprofit. For those businesses for whom employee engagement is a key desired outcome, then they can poll their employees to determine their interests and identify nonprofits that match those interests.

2. What can nonprofits do to invite private sector collaboration?

The first thing that is important is to have a well designed, inviting website where businesses can see how their contribution would make an impact. Many businesses will scan the internet first to identify with whom they are interested in partnering and nonprofits often will not know that businessesare even looking at them. The second thing is to identify which of their programs or activities seem to align with a business’ goals and vision. The nonprofit can then approach the business based on the appearance of shared interests or goals. A third approach is to create engaging volunteer opportunities. Many times, businesses will begin their engagement with a nonprofit through a volunteer activiity, and then, if a positive relationship is established, financial resources may follow. Therefore, it is imperative that the volunteers have a positive experience.

3. What are some creative ways that businesses can give back nonprofits beyond monetary donations?

Businesses can provide paid time off for their staff to engage in volunteer work. They can also encourage their staff to serve on boards. Businesses can look at the goods or services they have and offer either provide material supplies or service expertise, such as IT support to a nonprofit in need of them. In addition, as part of employee team building, businesses can create an internal fundraiser or drive and can even set up competitions between departments to see who can raise the most funds or bring the most canned goods. Businesses can also recognize their employees who do engage in the community by nominating them for community awards and/or acknowledging their accomplishments in company communications such as the newsletter.

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Woollard Nichols & Associates is a consulting firm committed to building capacity for impact through strategy, development & support for social sector coalitions, associations, organizations and other initiatives.

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