Business with Non-Profits is Good for Business

By: Julie Borneman  – Serves on the Green Committee with the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce

Many businesses shy away from working with non-profit groups.  Personally, I just can’t figure out why.  Working with Non-profits has boosted my business more than advertising.   Granted,  my business of native pesticide-free plants may tie in well with non-profit goals, but any business can make a relationship with a non-profit work for them.

Young people and nature have always been priorities for me personally.  When I saw ways I could use my business to benefit kids and nature I knew I had a win-win combination.   Each year, I set my community outreach budget and try to make the most impact with the small amount I have.   Watermark Woods is a very small business, so trust me that budget is pretty small.

I do a lot of public speaking in the form of classes, educational talks and workshops These events can be anywhere from schools to for plant clubs, wildlife groups, or at my business.  These pro-bono spots both educate and engage the community in topics, which relate to my business of native plants, but they also give me a huge number of contacts within the community.

I’d like to highlight one specific venture I have recently been involved in.

After one of these talks last year the director of a local special needs school contacted me. They had a large communications corporation who wanted to donate workers and money to install pollinator gardens at the school.  Nature and kids; my soft spot.  Watermark Woods donated some plants and design services to the project and the corporation purchased the bulk of the plants and materials needed.   The school obviously benefited from all the donated time, talent and goods.  They have a couple of great-planted areas, a new walking path and two businesses (the Comms company and Watermark Woods) to assist them with the maintenance of their new areas.  The two businesses involved got some great PR in the newspaper, fulfilled employees, new business contacts and even a tax write-off. As great a situation that is, it goes even further.

Due to a prior commitment I was not able to attend the workdays for the pollinator gardens. I delivered the plants the day before and really had little to no interaction with the corporate sponsor.  However in the months to come I have had employees of the corporate sponsor come to my business to buy plants and mention they worked at the school garden and saw my plant tags.  I have even had two boys whose parents worked on that project contact me about doing similar gardens for their Eagle Scout projects.  A separate HOA who benefited from one of the Eagle Scout projects then came to me to purchase landscaping plants for their common area.   Residents of the HOA community have come to buy plants because they like what they saw their HOA do.

To cut a long story short…the contacts and publicity from that one project and a small donation are snowballing.

Two tips to translate this to your business?

  1. Gets your name out there. Whenever I give a talk or workshop, I try to have a take away.  Be it , handouts printed ‘compliments my business’, pens, or whatever could be of use to the group I am working with.   Many times you can even ask for a thank-you on their website or newsletter.
  1. Find Non-profits that tie in with your business. If you are struggling to find a non-profit that matches your business motives, look for a non-profit with a lot of volunteer involvement.  All volunteers have other lives.  They are parents, consumers and business people as well.  They are smart people and passionate about what they do.  Those volunteers are there because the want to be not because the need to be.  Your businesses’ philanthropy and good will not go un-noticed. Non-profits are business too.  Making your business part of their business gives you respect of loyalty of people in the community.

Almost any business can find a non-profit that aligns with their mission, but if not, find one that speaks to your employees.  The communications company did just that and they got quite a bit of good PR from the relationship. So when you look at working with non-profits, look for one that has meaning to your or your business, it will boost your enthusiasm for the partnership and will probably boost your donation to them as well.

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