Finding and Supporting Community Groups

 
This article was produced in collaboration with bridgeschool.io

This article was produced in collaboration with bridgeschool.io

 

How your company can find and support nonprofit organizations

Don’t assume corporate social responsibility (CSR) is nothing more than draining company resources for the sake of being nice; it’s a critical element of building a business.

For example, over 70 percent of millennials - with a combined spending power of $2.45 trillion dollars - will spend more on brands that support causes. Add in the boost to employee morale from CSR, the tax benefits, and the marketing benefits and you’ve got a compelling reason for your company to give back.

So how can a company find and support community groups and nonprofits?

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Ask the right questions

Before spending any money, bring decision makers together to get clear on what you’re trying to accomplish. Since there are over 170,000 charities and nonprofits in Canada alone (millions globally), knowing your “why” and knowing what you can offer ensures your company will make the best possible impact.

Document answers to these questions as a central resource to get you started:

  1. What causes align with our company’s mission, vision, and values?

  2. What are the key results we want out of our donation(s)?

    1. Think in terms of:

      1. Employees

      2. Customers

      3. Communities you operate in

      4. Communities your employees belong to

      5. Communities of importance to employees or customers

      6. Communities that could benefit from your products and services who may not usually have access

  3. What do we want our contributions to say about our company?

    1. For example, supporting programs like Bridge School sends a message that the company cares about gender inequities in tech, whereas sponsoring a conference like Venture Out signals your company cares about LGBTQ+ inclusion

  4. Are we able to donate time, money, or both?

    1. If we are able to donate money, what is our budget?

  5. Do we want giving to be company-driven or employee-driven?

    1. Are we willing to set up an employee donation matching program?

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Choosing the organizations to work with: focus on the win-win

Be upfront about what you want and what you can offer

In all conversations with prospective nonprofits and community groups, be upfront with the way your organization works and the support it can offer. The clearer you are in what you can do and what you want out of the relationship, the better partnership conversations will go.

Know that being upfront doesn’t guarantee you’ll get everything you want. Flexibility is still crucial here. Keep in mind you’re building a relationship and that means you’ll need to be open to working with nonprofits and community groups at least somewhat on their terms. The best partnerships have give and take on both sides.

Build a system to evaluate contributions and scale CSR efforts

Put in place a system or rubric to evaluate all possible contributions, indicating who will evaluate possibilities, and by when.

For example, a company may have a form for employees to fill out about prospective community groups to support. Then there would be a regular review (for example, monthly or quarterly) of all proposals to see if they match company goals, budgets, and other things set out in the rubric.

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"We like to "think global, act local" so we used the UN Sustainable Development Goals to guide our partnerships. We started by asking our employees and customers which goals they valued the most and they selected 5 out of 17 that encompassed social, economic, and environmental challenges. We then started connecting with nonprofits in the Toronto area that were working on solving those challenges. This approach created unity between our efforts and the international community."

- Katie Allen, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Fiix Software

If that sounds like too much up front, informal, optional town hall meetings are a great way for employees to bring up suggestions. Going this route requires a commitment from the decision makers and financial stakeholders of the company to be present so ideas are heard by the right people.

Choose nonprofits where possible for business products and services

An easy way to give back to any community is to choose a nonprofit or community group as the service provider for something you need anyway. For example, Toronto-based LGBTQ+ charitable organization and community centre The 519 has catering services. Using them to cater your next company event is an easy way to give back to the LGBTQ+ community while getting a service you needed anyway.

For every product or service your company needs, research if there’s a nonprofit or social enterprise that could do the work instead.

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Supporting organizations is about more than money

There are many free and low-cost ways to support nonprofits and community groups in their missions - beyond time and money - that are also great for your business.

Market for them: Whatever marketing channels you leverage (social media, email, events, etc.), talk up the groups you support and their work. Just be sure to keep it focused on them, not your involvement only.

Give free / discounted products and services: Many companies have a “nonprofit rate” or offer a certain amount of products/services free to registered nonprofits and charities.

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"Wealthsimple works alongside community organizations that support our DIBs goal: to create an inclusive environment at Wealthsimple for every current and future team member. These partnerships allow the team to connect to the broader tech community, and to bring those communities into Wealthsimple through events, speaking engagements, hackathons, etc. We love working with organizations who are making an impact in the community where we work and live!"

- Mallory Greene, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Wealthsimple

Lend networks and social credibility: You can help them find more sponsors, advisors, or offer your social credibility (e.g. let them “name drop” and use you as a reference).

Offer space: If you have a conference room or open space in your office, consider letting nonprofits or community groups use it free of charge for meetings or work. This can be occasional or however often you can offer.

Join their board: Get involved more formally by joining their board or advisory council. If you go this route, be sure you know what you’re getting into; some boards have fundraising commitments and are very strict while others are more informal.

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Co-authored by Emily Porta, Executive Director at Bridge School, and Stefan Palios, Co-Founder of Venture Out

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Stefan Palios