Imagine for a moment that the building blocks of your corporate outreach program are already in place. This includes a compelling message about your nonprofit, consistent with the profit mandate of your ideal corporate partner, and a CRM platform to keep track of all the individuals involved.

the endNow what? What framework will help you advance the dialogue to a mutually desired outcome? When in pursuit of a goal, I’m reminded of the wisdom of Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits described by Covey is to “Begin with the End in Mind”. Covey argues that outcomes are attained most effectively when we focus on the desired result. In our case, this may translate as follows:

  1. Gain agreement on how your nonprofit matches the social mission of your ideal corporate partner. Don’t skip this step as they may not have one. It’s best to know and understand this before you begin. If management can’t see the benefit of a social mission, here’s a pithy article to help you nudge them in that direction. Consider Ben and Jerry’s, a company which introduced the concept of “social mission” to the world. Help them define their social mission.
  2. The next objective is Outcomes! What does management hope to achieve through charitable work with your organization? Perhaps it’s about boosting employee morale or increasing brand awareness. The time has come to find out and gain alignment with both management and the “rank and file”. This can be done by employee survey and individual engagement. An upfront discussion will allow you to create a plan that demonstrates why the company and your nonprofit fit well together.
  3. An organic fit always works best. For example, the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter recently partnered with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) for flood relief. Many oil and gas companies work in affected areas and some employees also lost their homes. Therefore, it was logical for COGA to reach out to these communities and make a philanthropic connection.  COGA is encouraging both corporate and individual donations and hopes to raise $1.5 million dollars towards relief efforts. Sometimes the cause and company overlap organically.
  4. Beware the mismatch I recently attempted to persuade a large accounting firm to support a nonprofit technology group, thinking that both organizations would benefit. Neither party proved to be very interested in the other for a variety of reasons, but mostly cultural. As you might imagine, accountants wearing business suits and Millennial programmers have little in common, even if you put them in the same room. In this case, we got to the end—before the mind.
  5. Be creative. Whether a match is obvious or not, utilize employee engagement tools creatively. Take the time to determine what really makes sense for the company and employees, its social mission and bottom line requirements.  Explore a broad list of employee engagement opportunities such as:
  • Cultivate events aimed at brainstorming corporate involvement.
  • Employee giving programs.
  • Capacity building opportunities, which let employees utilize their skills on behalf of a nonprofit.
  • “Gamification” and/or crowd-funding events (with personal donation pages).
  • Online platforms such as Crowdrise, Fundly, CauseVox, to support individual employee  and/or cause marketing campaigns.
  • Partnerships with Causecast, Volunteer Match or other nonprofit/corporate platforms that bring the two sides together.
  • Corporate sponsorships with clear marketing benefits.
  • Cause campaigns with a percentage of the proceeds benefiting a cause or some type of in-kind donation.
  • Collaboration with other nonprofits.

In the end, it’s important to get to know the company first and help define a social mission that may match to your cause. After all, corporations consist of people with real-life concerns, not just profit motive. Begin with the end in mind and you will no doubt get there together, much faster.

Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the nonprofit sector. For more resources, visit her blog.