Mission alignment: How to get the most out of business-nonprofit partnerships

(BPT) - National Nonprofit Day (Aug. 17) provides an important reminder for companies. Partnering with the right nonprofits can help them achieve social objectives and make a greater impact.

The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental, social, and governance (ESG), and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have many companies reevaluating how to operate ethically, responsibly, and sustainably. Fortunately, the strategies that result can guide companies in evaluating the right nonprofit partners to help advance their goals.

Do your research

According to Nonprofits Source, 90% of companies said partnering with reputable nonprofit organizations enhances their brand. In addition, 89% believe doing so leverages their ability to improve the community.

Companies looking for the right partner can start by researching nonprofits with a reputation for effecting change.

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), for example, is celebrating 20 years of serving the nation's post-9/11 wounded veterans and their families. WWP invested nearly $250 million in programs in 2022 and offers free services in mental health, career counseling, long-term rehabilitative care, and policy advocacy.

More than 90% of the organization's donors said they would recommend supporting WWP to a friend or family member, according to a recent WWP survey.

"The support we receive from partners and other supporters helps us deliver free programs and services that improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of warriors and their loved ones," said WWP's Vice President of Business Development Brea Kratzert Todd. "Corporate partners, in particular, help to expand our reach, enhance our programs, and improve our advocacy efforts for warriors and their families across the nation."

Commit to a cause

Mission alignment is important when it comes to corporate-nonprofit partnerships. According to Edelman's 2022 Trust Barometer, 65% of U.S. consumers buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values. Consider supporting organizations committed to causes that company stakeholders admire.

For instance, C4 Energy®, owned by Nutrabolt, found natural alignment with WWP among its energy drink consumers.

'Throughout our company's 20-year history, veterans and active military have been an important part of our consumer base given their high-performance lifestyle," said Katie Geyer, VP of talent, partnerships & experience at Nutrabolt. "Working with Wounded Warrior Project gives us a unique opportunity to partner with a leading organization that could directly relate to a consumer that we care deeply about and are authentic users of the brand.'

C4 Energy's partnership with WWP includes exclusive energy drink and pre-workout flavors. The co-branded cans feature a dedicated QR code for consumers to support the mission of WWP and learn how to get involved. C4 Energy also impacts local communities by hosting WWP fundraisers and sponsoring WWP's Carry Forward® 5K races.

Measure impact

The more companies can show value to investors, consumers, employees, and the community, the better. Setting measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to reach CSR or ESG goals is one way companies can track their progress.

CSX, a national transportation company, provides a great example of tracking and providing impact metrics from its Pride in Service initiative. In their recently released 2022 ESG Report, they highlighted their support of over 315,000 military, veterans, first responders, and their families in the past year. This included the 212,000 wounded warriors whose voices were amplified through the company's sponsorship of WWP's Annual Warrior Survey, which provides insights on the current needs and challenges of warriors registered with the organization.

CSX is now helping remove veteran employment barriers by supporting WWP's Warriors to Work® program. This program provides warriors and their family members the necessary tools to succeed in civilian jobs. In fiscal year 2022, Wounded Warrior Project placed over 1,700 warriors and family members in new careers.

'We're proud to have reached so many wounded warriors across the country, providing them with the support they need to make the challenging transition to the civilian workforce,' said Bryan Tucker, CSX vice president of corporate communications. 'Our work with partners like Wounded Warrior Project is more than just writing a check; it's about investing time and resources in true partnership to combine our talents in service of communities in need.'

Take the next step

These steps help narrow the prospective nonprofit partner list and lead to conversations about ways to work together.

Collaborating with nonprofits can make company initiatives easier to define, measure, and celebrate. In turn, nonprofits benefit from the company's contributed resources and reach.

Together, the two entities can be a driving force for change that benefits the corporation and its communities.

Sponsor a program or become a partner like C4 Energy and CSX to help Wounded Warrior Project empower, employ, and engage veterans in communities nationwide.

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