Written for nonprofit readers of Georgia Center for Nonprofits’ online NOW magazine
By Patty Tucker
Given the daily influx of new social campaigns, boycotts, marches, and hashtag-powered pressure on business, Georgia’s nonprofits hold unprecedented value they can leverage with corporate partners.
Social demand and the geopolitical environment driving it are influencing corporate behavior like never before, escalating pressure on brands to express social beliefs, implement cause campaigns, and influence policy. This is an opening for nonprofits to make the pitch for solution-oriented partnership.
If you aren’t already, I recommend you approach companies directly, offering them data and insight, working relationships, and a role in the momentum you’ve built, providing contextual depth and opportunities to act for their chosen or mandated causes.
Their urgency is your advantage
The more urgent a company’s need for your expertise, the greater your potential value. Consider urgency on a continuum: lower urgency on the left, moving to a great need for speed on the right.
For example, the two community impact areas of Jackson Healthcare, a staffing and technology firm in Alpharetta, are improving healthcare access and underprivileged children’s wellbeing. Because they possess deep knowledge and passion in these areas, partnerships are important but not urgent: They would fall on the left end of the spectrum.
In the middle might be a manufacturer, like a Dalton carpet producer who feels obligated to wade into the DACA issue because they depend on the global workforce to stay competitive. This company might not be familiar with the data and relationships in immigration circles. They might need partners to quickly round out their gaps and help speed their mission.
On the right might be a brand like Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines, which was thrown into the gun debate after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sparked public boycotts of companies that work with the NRA. Of course, I don’t speak for Delta, but in reactive scenarios, brands need to get smart overnight, and to consider immediate actions – like aligning themselves with relevant nonprofits – that clearly demonstrate their values in the face of consumer upset.
Tailor your approach
When considering companies you might be able to partner with, be sure to check their websites: They should provide you with the information you need. Research their customer and employee demographics so you can be explicit about those groups’ attitudes and passions regarding your mission, and the impact you can achieve by tapping or changing them. Study how their business is impacted by the issues and public policy in your sphere.
Then approach companies with a compelling point-of-view about how you can help them, rather than how they can help you: Cite pivotal events to prove you’re attentive to their unique vulnerabilities and possibilities.
It’s clear which of these messages is more intriguing: “Our cause needs corporate support more than ever,” or “75 percent of Millennials want to work for a company that’s committed to environmental protection. We have ideas for enhancing your reputation among the Millennials you need to fuel your ambitious growth goal.”
And in truly urgent cases, such as the trending gun control debate, it pays to be even more direct: “If your company joins our program now, you’ll be able to answer your detractors with measurable impacts before the end of the summer.”
In my experience, an insight- and solution-oriented approach will set you apart, and fit you into companies’ urgent agendas. Georgia nonprofits make invaluable partners for any business pursuing positive public opinion. Take advantage of it!
Patty Tucker is immediate past board chairman of GCN, and a senior corporate communications advisor for many Georgia brands, including Jackson Healthcare.