The marketer’s guide to working with nonprofits

Credit: Claudio Schwarz
Credit: Claudio Schwarz

Brands must make collaborations with nonprofits mutually beneficial.

As social, political, and environmental issues continue to dominate headlines, brands are being challenged to take a stance more than ever before. 

As a non-profit founder, I’m pleased with this trend. Because for brands, developing authentic partnerships with nonprofits is a key way to connect with audiences and contribute to a better world. Today, 72% of Americans feel it is important to buy from companies that reflect their values. 

But when entering into non-profit partnerships, brands must consider how to make these collaborations mutually beneficial. Here are some tips.

Vet the right partner

Before working with a nonprofit, do your research. It’s essential to partner with organizations that share similar values to your brand so the relationship is genuine. Knowing the organization’s values and exactly what it does is imperative for a mutual partnership.

Finding a non-profit partner is like dating. Just because you think you would look good together doesn’t mean you will click. Don’t force a partnership for optics. Take the time to get to know each other and make sure you are on the same page.

Offer promotional support

Promotional support is one of the most powerful ways brands can help nonprofits. In addition to budgets, brands have marketing machines and platforms in place to raise awareness, and potentially greater support, for a cause-related partner. 

By using their social platforms and websites to promote their nonprofit partner and help bring awareness to their work, brands can also improve community standing among their audiences. A brand that wants to sell a new product or service can donate a portion of the proceeds to its nonprofit partner, for instance. This allows the brand to promote its partner’s mission (and contribute to its budget) while also promoting its own product. 

Give what’s needed, not what can’t be used

Most brands support nonprofits by donating items they no longer need. But nonprofits are not places to discard your unwanted items. While they may need donations in the form of physical goods, these goods must be useful to the organization. More often than not, unrestricted monetary donations will have the biggest impact on driving the mission forward. Confirm the organization’s needs — don’t simply assume. 

The same thinking applies to providing services. Don’t send employees to do unnecessary and unhelpful work at a nonprofit just so they can feel good about themselves. If your service is providing a boost to your ego rather than helping drive change, then it is not needed. Align with the organization’s team to understand where you can truly add value.  

Keep communication lines open

Like with any business partnership, communication is key. Be transparent and talk regularly, especially as the partnership evolves. It’s important to keep the organization engaged and informed throughout to ensure goals continue to align. 

Nonprofits can be valuable for brands, and vice versa. Studies show that companies that allow employees to participate in important causes report higher retention and satisfaction as well as successful employee recruitment. 

Follow these guidelines and keep the partnership organic, and both parties can expect great results. 

Jason Wall is founder and executive director of Future Youth Records.

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