Struggling with community engagement? Try partnering with a nonprofit

Struggling with community engagement? Try partnering with a nonprofit

By working with a non-profit, businesses can plant the seeds for more funding platforms.

Engagement with communities is an important aspect of business sustainability and key to a healthy relationship amongst stakeholders. Ensuring that community engagement is done in an effective and quality way, however, can be difficult.

It is important to remember that although your business may have incredible resources and expertise in your particular field, those do not necessarily translate well to community development. One of the best ways of participating in a meaningful way is to partner with a quality non-profit and help them to provide their services through their expertise.

Non-profit organizations spend a great deal of time raising money, writing grants and ensuring their financial viability. By partnering with a non-profit, your business can relieve some of this pressure, allowing the organization to focus on its strengths and the services they provide. It is to the advantage of your business, the non-profit and the communities they work with to build a partnership.

The first step in building a partnership with a non-profit is to decide what your goals are. If your business has a sustainability plan, you already may have a community engagement mandate. If you don’t, now is the time to do it.

The mandate will allow you to evaluate various non-profits in regard to their ability to fulfill your goals in the community. A mandate, like a mission statement, defines goals generally and in a concise way. When deciding on a mandate, three topics should be addressed:

Geography: Where do you want to have an effect? Locally, regionally or internationally?

Theme: What do you want to affect? Social, cultural or environmental issues?

Demographics: Who do you want to affect? Children, youth or cultural groups?

Having determined these three aspects of the mandate, it can be made into a concise phrase. For example: To promote healthy lifestyles in the Orillia community for local families.

This simple phrase can serve as a guide to find partner organizations and for them to find you.

With the type of partner organization to partner with determined, the kind of support must be addressed. If you are looking at becoming a funding partner for a specific organization, you have a few options for funding. A common structure for non-profits is to organize their activities into program areas with specific projects falling under them. When funding an organization you can specify how you want that funding to be used:

1. Core funding

Core funding for an organization ensures the organization can maintain its regular activities regardless of other government or corporate funding. Core funding generally covers senior staff salaries and overhead costs. Many organizations invest core funding running the organization on the returns on investment; this ensures the sustainability of the organization in the long term.

Core funding is often difficult for non-profits to acquire as there are no specific outcomes and less publicity linked with this type of funding. The importance of core-funding, however, is inescapable as without it programs and projects will falter due to organizational instability.

2. Program funding

Providing funding to a specific program allows you to earmark your funds, according to your mandate, while allowing the organization to determine what the need is within that program area.

For example, an environmental organization may have an education program with five events and three projects that run throughout the school year. If you fund the program, the organization can determine which project or event needs the funding, while still fulfilling your mandate and their goals.

3. Project funding

Project funding is the most common type of funding non-profits receive and it is the most restrictive. Project funding is tied to a fully planned and budgeted project that falls within a program area. The project has a specific time frame, measurable goals and specific reporting requirements. 

While this kind of funding is extremely useful to an organization, it is limiting. Often organizations hire staff for a project and when the funding runs out, so does that contract, meaning a loss of staff and experience.

Once again, this can lead to instability in the organization. However, as a donor, when providing project funding, you can see specific results and it is the best way of understanding how your funds are being used.

Find the right funding

While funding options vary, so do organizations. Sit down and talk to the staff of the organization you are thinking of funding. Find out exactly what they need and find a structure you all are comfortable with. Consistency in funding is essential, it allows an organization to truly focus on their work and the goals they are aimed toward.

Volunteering is another fulfilling way of engaging with the community. Many organizations have specific volunteer events while others need regular volunteers. As with funding, consistency and commitment are extremely important. Make a plan with your staff and with your partner organizations to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of expectations.

Ensure that your staff have the time set aside to volunteer with organizations they believe in. For a non-profit organization, an uninterested volunteer is worse than no volunteer at all. It is better to allow your staff to choose their volunteer opportunities and, if they meet your mandate, support them in the best way you can.

The options for engagement with non-profits are incredible. By determining your goals and level of engagement you can make a profound difference in the communities you care about through non-profits doing work you support. The key to remember is that when you partner with an organization, your reputations become linked: A respectful and mutually beneficial relationship is essential.

This article originally apperead on 2degrees.