Recent years have seen the drive for Corporate Social Responsibility accelerate at an extraordinary rate. Corporations must engage their employees in philanthropy and showcase their cause work.  Non-profits must do more with less, amidst rapidly changing technologies.


Both sides seem to need each other, but what's the best way to forge effective partnerships?


America’s Charities examined this in their 2015 study, “The New Corporate DNA.” The outcome of this study, combined with wisdom and guidelines from numerous experts, suggests that successful corporate/non-profit partnerships are rooted in mutual understanding of interests and diligent execution of a strategic plan.


While no two partnerships are alike, the following highlights factors common in successful partnerships:


Determine Individual Needs

America’s Charities advises that both companies and non-profits first consider their vision and goals for a successful partnership.


Companies should consider:

  • Mission and values
  • Desires of key stakeholders
  • Resources that they can provide (money, volunteers, in-kind)
  • Company and employees’ expertise
  • Desired public image


Non-profits should consider:

  • Capital needed (money, volunteers, in-kind)
  • Internal resources to support company needs
  • Efficiency of infrastructure and internal operations

When each side has considered these points, they will be in better standing to strike an effective partnership. 


Discuss Goals and Strategy

Once goals have been set, a clear plan should be devised. Both companies and non-profits should openly discuss how they hope to benefit from the partnership, and then decide upon ways each can help the other realize their goals. A clear strategy should identify:


  • What the company will give the non-profit and what initiatives they will implement.
  • How the company will promote participation.
  • How the non-profit will help promote participation.
  • How the non-profit will measure quantitative and qualitative impact.
  • How the non-profit will communicate corporate support to people in their network and to the general public. 

Elements of a Strategic Plan - Company

A company needs a partnership with a non-profit to accomplish three important objectives: good public image, positive workplace morale, and strong company brand.  Possible strategies include:


  1. Skills-giving: Company employees can “donate” professional skills to a non-profit, which benefits both the company and the non-profit.  As skills-based volunteering expert Kimberly Dulin notes, employees have the opportunity to develop professional skills and practice skills not utilized daily at work. This arrangement can lead to happier, and indeed more productive, employees.  Non-profits also benefit, as they can tap into needed professional expertise without starving their budget. Such programs often lead to long-term support instead of temporary band-aids for gaps in resources.
  2.  Workplace giving programs: Studies have shown that allowing employees to make donations through their paychecks year-round maximizes donations. Corporate gift-matching programs offer an incentive to employees, and can also lead to higher donations.  Strategically placed workplace events, which thank employees and showcase the impact of their efforts, can invigorate the spirit of giving and remind employees of the difference they make.
  3.  Company branding: When effectively aligned with company values, non-profit partnerships can become an important part of a company’s brand. Companies should utilize internal communications as well as their public social networks to market their charitable impact and make their name synonymous with the cause they support.

Elements of a Strategic Plan – Non-profit

  1. Communication: America’s Charities’ 2014 study, “Rising Tide of Expectations,” suggests that non-profits should devote staff to communicating the impact of a corporate partnership.  Effective use of social media and other communication methods can emphasize the company’s dedication to the common good. Such communications will keep the company happy (and the donations coming in), as they will help the company reach a broader base of people and publicize their brand.
  2. Social media tools: Social media is a cost-effective way to engage company employees. Information on events, measured results, and anecdotal stories should be communicated regularly, encouraging employees to comment, “like,” and share their experiences. Making this a general practice will connect employees to the cause and ensure that the cause stays fresh in their minds.
  3. Junior Board: In an article for GuideStar, CJ Orr discusses how non-profits’ Junior Boards engage Millennials, who are a motivated crowd when it comes to philanthropy. Non-profits should offer companies’ younger employees spots on their Junior Boards, giving them a chance to practice leadership skills and boost their resumes. In doing so, the non-profits tap into a fresh resource of skills and insight, and they can only benefit from the audiences they will reach through this social-media-savvy group.

Additional Resources

Striking lasting and mutually beneficial partnerships isn’t always easy, as it requires much thought and diligence. But such partnerships have now become a common-sense practice. Further information and guidance can be found at the web sites for Points of Light and America’s Charities.

Are your employees currently volunteering? Use our free CSR calculator, to see the economic impact your company could be having, if all your employees engaged in service.

CSR Calculator



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