The Evolution of Corporate Engagement: Best Practices for Communicating with Progressive Companies to Gain Their Interest in Engaging with Your Nonprofit

Over the past decade, there has been a growing emphasis on workplace wellness, corporate social responsibility and the importance of investing in programs that will attract and retain talent for companies. Businesses have become more attuned to the opportunity for engaging with nonprofits to increase workplace participation and community engagement. This has proven to be a popular branding tactic for many companies who are looking to recruit a new generation of employees who are eager to have impact inside and outside of the company. In fact, according to America’s Charities’ Snapshot 2017 report, 88 percent of employers believe that effective employee engagement programs help attract and retain employees. Since fostering a strong employee engagement program has such a large impact on the company’s brand, partnering with a reputable nonprofit to fuel these programs is imperative. Ninety percent of respondents from the above report actually stated that partnering with a well-rounded nonprofit was top of mind when looking to enhance their brand.

With corporate philanthropy proving to be a valuable recruiting and retention asset, companies are also asking their employees for opinions in which nonprofits to invest their time and money. Gone are the days when a CEO or executive team solely determines exactly how corporate dollars will be spent. Employees want to work for an organization that is mission-driven and does good, and they want to have a say in how it happens. Given this shift in corporate engagement, it is important that you, as the nonprofit’s fundraiser, explore the various ways to build relations with a company and its employees in order to win over their hearts and show them why they should be investing their time and funds in your cause.

Here are a few ways to ensure you are effectively communicating with potential corporate partners and building the bottom line for a successful working relationship:

  • Prioritize employee communication – With corporate philanthropy becoming more grassroots and collaborative, there is a bigger opportunity for nonprofits to develop a customized and tailored approach to communicating with the company’s employees. In a situation where the employee could be a potential advocate for your organization, treat them like brand ambassadors through solid cultivation and stewardship. This will help deepen the relationship between the nonprofit and the employee, ultimately reaching the corporate donor.
  • Show them your mission first hand – Many companies have a philanthropy committee that ultimately makes the decision for non-profit partnerships, so it’s important to engage this group as much as possible. Consider scheduling an annual visit and tour of your organization. During the meeting, introduce the committee to program staff and let them see the program in action. This will make them feel even more connected with your organization and show them where their dollars are making an impact.
  • Build a Corporate & Foundation team – Having a strong Corporate & Foundation team who can devote their time to writing strong proposals and report on solid outcomes is always critical to securing corporate investment. A formal “corporate giving” program should also show companies the different ways their employees can engage with your agency. A corporate program may include minimum thresholds that link with certain benefits: listings on your website, social media shout-outs, newsletters, invitations to events and best of all, experiences for their employees.
  • Tie this investment to their business values – Companies are always looking for team-building opportunities for their employees. Point out the various volunteer, networking and event opportunities—experiences that go beyond donations and corporate matching gifts—that their employees can gain from partnering with your organization. This will help the companies increase job satisfaction and take a step in the right direction towards improving retention rates.

At Horizons for Homeless Children, we also work to incorporate these types of tactics. After signing on a new corporate partner, we held a luncheon which hosted over 100 employees and executives from the company. Instead of doing a traditional presentation that explained the nonprofit’s mission and impact, we broke the employees down into small groups and played a game which illustrated the effects of toxic stress on a child’s developing brain—a topic that is relevant to our organization. For more than one hour, the employees were enraptured with the game and, at the end of the day, the feedback was incredibly positive. Leadership was thrilled the staff worked together so well, and the employees loved learning more about a meaningful topic. Creative thinking like this can easily differentiate your organization from others and can turn the heads of other companies looking for similar partnerships.

Overall, nonprofit fundraisers know that relationship building is key to developing the long-term partnerships crucial to so many organizations. Whether it be individual, corporate or one-time donors, developing transparent, open communication will continue to be the best form of contact for any nonprofit. As we consider the evolving workplace, nonprofits shouldn’t necessarily re-invent the wheel to engage with potential corporate partners. Rather, they should look towards their best advocates and nurture those relationships in head-turning ways.

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