When thinking about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), it is easy to limit the scope of impact if the focus is only on monetary contributions and the relationship is only seen as transactional.
For both the nonprofit and business to achieve the full potential benefits, the relationship has to be cognitively acknowledged as a mutual partnership, and both parties must value what the other has to offer. This value is rooted in both entities being provided with something that meets their needs and being able to assist the other organization in fulfilling its needs. This approach does take more time, but the outcome can be exceptionally rich for both the nonprofit and the business.
The development of this partnership (do note that I am not using the term sponsorship) starts with a conversation where the parties share what assets they bring to the table and what needs they need to meet. One pitfall that can derail the development of a strong partnership is the expectation that a nonprofit organization needs to accept what is offered no matter if it addresses their need or not. This type of giving only lessens the efficiency of an organization because they either have to determine how they are going to utilize the unexpected resource or how they will redirect the resource to another nonprofit that can properly utilize the “donation.” Just as businesses have specialized “products” or focuses, nonprofits have specific missions that they serve. A quality CSR partnership allows both participating organizations to walk away feeling understood and valued. When correctly executed, the return on investment (not just financial, but time, staffing, etc.) is measurable for both parties.
A solid illustration of a successfully executed partnership is the arrangement between Sun King Brewing Co. and its existing community partners to execute the CANvitational beer festival presented by the brewery annually. In previous years, an external organization was contracted and compensated to arrange for volunteers to assist brewers and monitor gates, set-up, tear-down, and registration. These volunteers were primarily interested in the brewing scene and were attracted to the opportunity because it provided free access to the festival. For the 2016 event, Sun King Brewing Co. took a different approach by choosing not to pay a contractor for the volunteer recruitment and organization, but rather invest that money and all net proceeds in community partners that were willing to assist in recruiting volunteers through their preexisting volunteer pool. Through this model, Sun King was able to have access to trained volunteers whom took the job seriously as they were focused on fundraising for their organization and the individual nonprofits benefited from the proceeds of the event based on the number of individuals they provided.
It is important to note that both Sun King Brewing and the nonprofits were having their needs met, while using their assets to meet the need of the partnering organization. Although the individual nonprofits had to communicate initially with their volunteers, all coordinating once someone agreed to participate was done through Sun King. No additional pressure or time commitment was asked of the nonprofits. Both organizations were invested and rewarded without individually having to carry the bulk of the weight.
Although the example of CANvitational includes a large and complicated event, collaborations can be as simple as sharing tools, sampling products, and sharing social media reach. All great CSR needs is two parties willing to listen and use creativity to connect the dots.
Heather Hall is VP of Community Engagement for Sun King Brewing Co.
Hear Sun King’s story for yourself at the “CSR in the Age of Social Enterprise,” a breakout session on October 25 at the PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis alongside panelists from Bohlsen Group, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Pedrotti Hays, Inc.
For event details, click here (conference registration required to attend).