In 2022, people will still ask you as a business leader, “What did you do during the pandemic to serve your community?” If you don’t have a good answer now, it’s not too late to find your purpose as a business in this pandemic and create business/nonprofit partnerships that will last beyond this pandemic crisis.
How can your business benefit long-term from business/non-profit partnerships?
Business/nonprofit partnerships can give your company greater credibility, expand its reach with key constituencies, raise its profile with targeted peers, and fundamentally help you achieve community leadership in the current crisis that can carry well beyond the stay-at-home orders.
But this idea isn’t just for the here-and-now. As a businessperson, you’re always thinking long-term, and that viewpoint should apply to your partnerships with nonprofits as well. (Spoiler alert: If you’re not thinking about such a partnership as a long-term commitment, the outcome will be harmful to both parties.)
So where do you start?
Using this formula, we’ve helped business leaders find their ideal nonprofit partners during times of crisis:
- Reflect on what moves YOU as the leader. Write down the three areas where you would like to make a difference. It could be youth. It could be small business support. It could be food security. It could be animal welfare, the arts, health care, the environment. That’s where you start because if you’re not personally invested in a cause as your company’s leader, then your organization won’t see its value.
- Having chosen those three areas, ask your key community members (employees, vendors, customers, etc.) for feedback on them. Be clear that you’re not asking them for their own ideas, but simply their opinions on yours. When you ask for this deliberate feedback, you’ll get early buy-in that will help you bring them along on your journey of community leadership.
- Synthesize the feedback you receive and decisively select the one thing you’ll do. Then, as President Coolidge aptly said, “Press on.” Decide where you’re headed and start moving in that direction. (Indecisiveness does not serve you as a leader, and it can paralyze you during a crisis.) Acknowledge the feedback you received and explain why you’ve selected the one path to pursue. When you do this, your people will know you heard them and will continue engaging with you in the work as you move forward.
- earn what you can reasonably accomplish from a financial, human resource, or every other dimension that matters. Demonstrate leadership from the top by taking personal action as an example for others. For instance, can you create an online fundraiser where your community can ask their social media networks to donate $5 to your chosen cause? This raises awareness and gives your people something to post about that is uplifting and not dire.
- Once you know what you want to do AND the resources you have available, determine what the needs are. First, find out what is needed in your immediate, local community on your chosen issue. If you find that the need is already being met locally, then cast a wider net. Your goal is to find that local agency or nonprofit you can align with that gives you credibility to lead.
- Finally, having discerned the needs you wish to address and the extent of your available resources, establish a partnership with an appropriate nonprofit and set a goal. The goal should be easily defined, one that anyone who learns about your effort can rally behind. And it should be achievable, so that:
- You can start building a track record of success.
- Your success will motivate and energize stakeholders in your business, your non-profit partner, and the larger community to commit to the next goal.
Finding the ideal nonprofit partner isn’t just about your gut feeling. Follow this proven process to create partnerships that help establish yourself and your business as positive forces in the community—both now and over the long term.
And next year (and years from now), you’ll have a great answer to the question: “So, what did you do during the pandemic for your community?”