Profiles in Partnership
A series on best practices and sound advice for developing and maintaining successful partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations
BB: What are you looking for from your corporate partners beyond financial contributions and hiring your students?
VW: Many people in corporations are interested in donating their time, their energy, and their expertise really beyond the dollars. They want to feel that they themselves are giving back; just writing a check doesn’t necessarily do that. Volunteers will come in and say, “I love film and I want to teach film.” Matching a volunteer like that to our educational program, especially with our youth, is sometimes a challenge because we are very diligent about seeing what skills a volunteer brings and what their skills are in working with young people. Also, we want to present a menu of the ways they can participate, as a board member, advisor, as a mentor, or even to help us network.
BB: Many nonprofits are struggling with the good news/bad news situation – companies saying that they would like to bring a group of volunteers over for some sort of teambuilding practice. While they don’t want to turn away the corporate friend or potential donor, many nonprofits are not prepared for this type of activity, especially with short notice. How do you handle that?
VW: This is difficult for us. As you know, we’re not a Habitat for Humanity; we don’t have a plant a tree day or build a house day. My approach is to say, let’s get to know each other better. Instead of just a group of stranger volunteers coming to us, may I instead, go to your organization, gather together a group of interested employees, maybe do a brown bag lunch, maybe do an overview session of some type so they could actually see a little bit about us, and let’s learn about you. To make it more personal so that you really understand our breadth of work and we understand what the volunteers want to get out of their volunteering experiences, instead of addressing a massive group of people where you don’t know their strengths and skills on short notice.
BB: What can a for-profit give to BAYCAT?
VW: We look for highly-skilled support, especially with professional companies like law firms or marketing advisors; professional advice is really great. For example, Eric Pearson is vice chair of our board. He is a post production manager at Pixar so he really gets what we are doing. Eric was able to get a small diverse team of 5 employees who came to BAYCAT last year to meet with our youth media producers. This event attracted 150 people here. There were kids from the rec centers and programs that would not normally come to our program because they were in another program, but the program directors responded positively right away because the kids wanted to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work at Pixar.
There are so many fields of experts that can share what they already know with us and our program partners; for us in media, advertising, design, social networking, technology, and gaming, this is exactly the kinds of relationships and resources we seek.
BB: So, obviously, it’s really all about building relationship.
VW: Yes, and we’re creating bridges very deliberately. For example, we developed a relationship with Give Something Back, the office-supply company. They allowed us to come and make a presentation. I got to meet their people, to see, personally, how much of a team they are. I got to feel their corporate spirit. So it makes me want to work with them that much more, and guess what, we buy our supplies from Give Something Back. Just recently one of our donors said they were excited to see us on the Give Something Back list and checked BAYCAT!
Up Next: Part 5: Leveraging donors/clients for new opportunities
For more information on developing highly successful partnerships please visit: www.bruceburtch.com