Creating foolproof partnerships – A relationship management guide

Building a strong, long-lasting relationship with a nonprofit is a great way for your company to engage in corporate social responsibility. In our June webinar, titled “Foolproof Partnerships – A relationship management guide,” representatives from three organizations discussed how to take advantage of existing networks, connect your philanthropy to the core of your business, and engage employees, executives, and customers as you establish a foolproof partnership.

An Edison International Case Study

Our first speaker, Melissa Amador, Community Investment Program Manager of South California Edison, opened with the areas of focus for company funding, including education, environment, civic engagement, and public safety/emergency preparedness. These areas are both important to Edison as a business, as well as to the community that it serves, thus making the biggest impact with the brand.

To illustrate its philosophy and strategy in action, Edison partnered with the American Red Cross to create the Prepare SoCal program. Through this initiative, they equip, educate, and prepare people for natural disasters, which are not uncommon in Southern California.

Amador offered valuable insight on how to Edison and Red Cross created a successful corporate/nonprofit partnership:

  1. Do your research – What is your company’s core business? What are your giving priorities? What nonprofits align with your core business?
  2. Support a cause that makes sense – Stay related to your core business and corporate identity.
  3. Define roles and responsibilities – This applies to both your organization and the nonprofit partner. Create a memorandum of understanding, outlining parameters for each party.
  4. Set mutually beneficial and measurable goals – What can you realistically accomplish?
  5. Leverage built-in resources – Maximize your human capital and existing resources, partnerships.

Corporate Citizenship at Pitney Bowes

Our next speaker, Kathleen Ryan Mufson, Director Corporate Citizenship of Pitney Bowes, began her segment by discussing a brief overview of the company’s philanthropy programs and operations. Mufson explained that their approach to their work, as well as that of their core business, is directly related to the way they promote literacy and education work in the community.

In building their programs, Pitney Bowes identifies their corporate citizenship vision, and then determines the nonprofit partner who will help the organization best achieve these goals. Pitney Bowes achieves success by:

  1. Focusing on a critical issue relevant to the business, employees, and communities where you operate.
  2. Developing multi-tiered nonprofit partnerships.
  3. Engaging employees.
  4. Benchmarking best practices.
  5. Measuring results.
  6. Communicating learning and success.

In addition to its own foundation, which helps support most of its literacy and education programs, Pitney Bowes has partnered with several nonprofits at both the national and global level. One of these organizations is the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

Jane Walsh, Vice President of Development from NFTE, explained that the nonprofit’s mission is to “provide programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities, and to plan for successful futures.” The three main pillars of the NFTE program model are:

  1. Teachers – NFTE partners with existing schools and community-based organizations, allowing them to reach young people.
  2. Experiential Learning – NFTE students learn by doing with hands-on, applied learning.
  3. Volunteers – NFTE creates dynamic programs and connects what students are learning in the classroom to the real world.

The partnership between NFTE and Pitney Bowes plays an important role in NFTE’s work. Their partnership is characterized by a dynamic, long-term relationship that evaluates progress and assesses new opportunities towards mutually beneficial and meaningful outcomes.

Polly O’Brien Morrow, Program Manager, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, of Pitney Bowes continued the conversation by outlining the benefits of volunteerism, which extend to the company, the employee, and the community at large. Morrow wrapped up the webinar with a few tips for developing an effective partnership:

  1. Start small
  2. Leverage existing relationships
  3. Engage employees and senior leaders
  4. Provide multi-faceted support
  5. Build alliance one program at a time

Strong relationships between corporations and nonprofits like these are prime examples of the result of a well-planned and executed partnership. By aligning with organizations that share similar interests and goals, these relationships are sure to last.