Businesses give back to communities and individuals through charities on a regular basis. However, many of these profit-to-non-profit relationships don’t last long. Over time, they break down for a variety of reasons, from lack of communication to a misalignment of priorities.
Molly MacDonald is the founder of Pink Fund, a breast cancer non-profit that helps cover living expenses for people who are managing a tight budget while in active treatment. The organization has a solid track record of partnership success. MacDonald recently shared some thoughts and insights into how her charity has successfully forged professional, organizational relationships over time.
Lining Up Value With Needs
It’s important for businesses to see the value of partnering with non-profits and what manifestations that value can take. Businesses know that by giving back, they’re trying to accomplish two things: being good community members by improving the lives of the less fortunate and elevating their own brand’s profile.
Of course, this can take place through donating generic lump sums to name-brand non-profits. But MacDonald suggests that businesses should look for ways to line up their own offerings with specific charities’ needs. “Businesses, through their marketing, may be able to reach those who need the particular services or support the charity offers. For instance, our partnership with Snap-on Tools puts us at the drag races, where people who may need our help, find out about us there through the branded race car, announcements, and interviews with the driver, Cruz Pedregon and Pink Fund CEO.”
MacDonald adds that these partnerships can be a win/win proposition. However, in order for that to happen, organizations must design them properly with clarity and accountability.
Setting Clear Expectations
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It’s also important to think about what you want from a non-profit partnership as a brand. It’s equally important for non-profits to evaluate what a potential business would want from a partnership.
“Some want nothing,” MacDonald explains, “Others want social posts, blogs, branding, and activation opportunities to display their product. It is important to identify what the business partners want and make sure you can deliver before agreeing to any kind of partnership.”
Pink Fund founder adds that this goes beyond the beginning of each relationship, “We are always looking for ways to enhance the partnership and mention our partners and thank them on our social platforms, as well as activations around events.”
If businesses and non-profits alike go into each partnership with clear expectations in place — even if those expectations are that you want nothing — it paves the way for a long-term relationship that satisfies both parties involved. Forbes contributor Patrick Hull echoes the importance of setting expectations in business. The serial entrepreneur explains that “people, including business partners, can’t read my mind. I believe business partners should consistently set their expectations with each other.” The same applies to non-profits, as well.
Going to Employees for Input
Charity shouldn’t exclusively take place on the C-suite level. It’s also important to look further down the org chart.
You can always support an organization, such as helping a breast cancer charity by donating toward research. But one of the best ways to build a meaningful partnership between non-profits and for-profit brands is by going to your employees.
“Corporate match programs are great,” MacDonald declares, “They honor the employees’ philanthropic spirit while doubling the donation. We have some great partnerships where breast cancer is the focus, but employees can contribute to a breast cancer charity of their choice, but the for-profit makes a larger matching donation.”
Aligning With the Mission
While expectations and identifying value-added partnerships are important, MacDonald identifies one item as the number one thing to prioritize when building partnerships between businesses and non-profits. “Do they LOVE the mission? Does it align with their business model?”
As an example, MacDonald points to Pink Fund’s 12-years-and-counting partnership with Ford Motor Company through their Breast Cancer Awareness initiative, Warriors in Pink. Ford recognized that transportation is a major barrier to treatment adherence. Thanks to the partnership, donations from Ford are used exclusively to provide transportation assistance by making car payments to patient’s creditors.
A new partnership for Pink Fund in 2022 was a round-up at the cash register campaign, conducted by Fleet Farm’s 48 stores in five states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. “The October partnership far exceeded our expectations, as Fleet Farm made significant investments in training their cashiers and marketing and advertising Pink Fund. They helped to spread the news of our program to people in rural areas who may not have known about us. When a company shares a mission, they have the ability to educate and inform the public of potential resources. They become our marketer at no cost to us.”
Buy-in on a missional level is a key driver behind a healthy and prolonged business and non-profit partnership. Whether it’s aligning mission statements, setting expectations, or identifying the best way a business can support a non-profit’s goals, there are multiple ways to ensure that a partnership can go the distance. The important thing is that leaders on both sides acknowledge the need to invest in this up-front effort in the first place.