By: Taylor Shanklin

Finding the Sweet Spot of Corporate Social Responsibility

There is level of collaboration between for-profit and nonprofit that we are not truly realizing yet. Finding that sweet spot, where technologists and business leaders are collaborating with fundraisers and change makers, can create impact and improvement for all of the obstacles and challenges we want to fix in the nonprofit industry.

For-Profit Companies Leading the Way in Social Responsibility

Here are a few examples I’ve heard of in the past year…

Just this week Microsoft (yeah, that company that many consider the “big bad wolf”) announced a pledge and partnership with a nonprofit organization Made By Dyslexia to provide access to better tools for people affected by dyslexia and their educators.  What I love about this announcement is that they are applying their knowledge and skills to a social cause that lines up well with their area of expertise.

Facebook continues to grow in the fundraising arena, having announced $300M raised in one-year through Facebook Fundraiser. In the past year, they’ve made the platform more open and accessible for nonprofit organizations by dropping fees and increasing capability.  Like Microsoft, the company is playing to its technological strengths (connecting people and creating conversations) to grow in the social impact arena.

Ben and Jerry’s, which I just had the pleasure of visiting their factory last week, has used their platform and following over the years to garner support for advocacy and change. They are playing to their strength of the incredibly loyal tribe of ice cream lovers they’ve built. They invite that tribe into the causes they care about.

In February of this year, United Way and Salesforce.org announced a partnership to launch Philanthropy Cloud to empower giving capabilities using the power of Salesforce’s technology. This will begin to make a tremendous difference in the the capabilities that nonprofit organizations have over time.

Capital One is building out community center cafes where individuals can get free financial consulting and nonprofits can have a free space to meet and work.

Are we truly maximizing the for-profit, nonprofit connection?

The list goes on and on, but it has me thinking….How can organizations think differently about corporate partnerships and embrace the strengths of their corporate partners in order to truly change the game and have more impact?  

If you’ve seen Dan Pallotta’s TED talk, and agree that the way we think about charity in this country is dead wrong, then I think the way we often think about how to collaborate with our business partners is limited. We should take a page from the books of the organizations listed above.

You may also be thinking, yeah, but this feels contrived... these companies are doing it to look good and ultimately make more money.  That’s true! But I also have to think many of them want to create positive change. Doing it in a way that builds brand affinity for them is not a bad bonus.

You may be wondering: These are all big brands - how does this apply to me and my organization?

Finding the sweet spot for your organization is not just about getting the biggest brand to partner with you for social impact. It’s about finding corporate partners that have strengths that play well to your audience and your mission.

Technology can help advance your mission in many ways. Are there technology partners you should be courting? For example, let’s say your organization assists disabled elderly individuals and your biggest sponsorship is with a yogurt company. Ask yourself, “What does yogurt have to do with our mission?  What would it look like, instead, to build a relationship with a rideshare company that could provide rides for the elderly to the doctor?” My point: Stop focusing on getting the partnership with the yogurt company just because they have a big name.

If you are reading this as someone who works in the for-profit industry and you want to create a greater impact on society, ask yourself, “What types of nonprofit or social causes align with our strengths?”

And, if you are a nonprofit fundraiser looking for ways to advance your mission and identify partners to collaborate with, ask yourself, “What product or for profit brand out there aligns with the change we are aiming to make?”

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