It's easy to categorize nonprofit work as a compilation of miracles when we take into account that they are working with sparse or often nonexistent resources.
The National Urban League, a nonprofit social service agency headquartered in New York, is an example of an organization that is working to improve the communities it serves.
The organization's more than 100 affiliates in 34 states provide educational programs designed to help African Americans, other people of color and disadvantaged individuals become self-sufficient.
With unemployment rates rising to their highest levels since 1994, nonprofit organizations like the Urban League are working to extend job training and placement programs to displaced workers.
But finding the resources to fulfill these obligations can be challenging for many nonprofit organizations, which rely primarily on federal and state funding as well as private grants and donations.
In response, many nonprofits like the Urban League have created corporate partnership programs in an effort to develop strategic partnerships that satisfy the financial and service goals of their organizations, while simultaneously addressing workforce, philanthropic, marketing and other objectives of the corporate partners.
Corporations often play a large role in the success of a nonprofit organization. Nonprofit initiatives and programs thrive with corporate donations in the form of time, money and resources. And, best of all, the heightened sense of community these partnerships create goes a long way toward bringing new opportunities forth for each individual involved.
"Cultivating strong partnerships with corporations is one of the cornerstones of developing strong community partnerships," said James Kelly, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.
How do corporate executives and urban professionals take the steps needed to donate resources? It is important that they spend time making sure that their services align with the needs and goals of the nonprofit organization they are approaching.
The better the donation is matched with the mission and goals of the nonprofit organization, the bigger the impact will be. After finding a nonprofit group that seems like a fit, they should set up an appointment to talk to leaders of the organization to gauge their immediate needs and how a partnership could help.
Because resources within nonprofits often fluctuate, what may seem like an obvious need could change at any time.
A good example of a company that is well matched with a nonprofit organization is Knowledge Anywhere, an e-learning provider and corporate partner to the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.
In response to massive lay-offs within their community, Knowledge Anywhere decided to help the Urban League retrain displaced workers by donating hundreds of online courses to their Employment and Training Program.
The online courses were ideal for the Employment and Training program because they provided the flexibility of Web-based courses, which could be accessed from anywhere at anytime. The classes also covered relevant subjects essential for job retraining such as basic business skills and computing fundamentals.
"The online courses allow our students to not only choose what topics they feel are important to their development but also allow them to learn at their own pace", said Kathya Alexander, director of the Employment division at the Urban League in Seattle.
"Also, because these courses are available through the Web, students can access them away from the Urban League and continue with their learning even after they physically leave class."
There are many ways for corporations and urban professionals to help a nonprofit and in turn support the community. To get started, keep these tips in mind.
1. Decide how much to give -- Before you approach a nonprofit organization discuss what your organization has to offer and define the parameters of how much time, money, and resources you can realistically give.
2. Research the organization thoroughly -- It's important to be aware of the ultimate mission of the nonprofit organization so you can better align your services. Also look for any conflicts of interest; many nonprofits are affiliated with other companies that could turn out to be competitors.
3. Define the gift -- After researching the organization and finding compatibility, narrow down two or three services or ways in which your organization can contribute. It is important to have several options, as the first option might already be fulfilled by another organization.
4. Get to know the people behind the nonprofit -- Schedule a meeting with the leaders of the organization to discuss your ideas; be willing to hear theirs. Spending the time to build a relationship between your organization and theirs will go a long way toward creating positive results.
5. Be open to new ideas and listen -- The nonprofit organization will often adapt their needs to your resources. If they happen to ask for something that was out of the realm of your initial conversations, try to be creative and find a way to meet in the middle.
6. Provide support and commit to the mission -- Don't assume you are done after signing the check. One of the most important things you can do for a nonprofit organization is provide ongoing support.
7. Be prepared to give more -- Necessity is the mother of invention. Nonprofits are very adept at asking for everything your company can possibly give -- from literature and press materials to executive speakers. Always think of new ways you can contribute or be ready to explain why you cannot.
8. Talk them up -- One of the main reasons businesses like to connect with nonprofits is to show they are involved with their communities. One of the ways in which this works for the nonprofit is to provide opportunities on their behalf, be it new business partnerships or job opportunities for their clientele.
9. Learn something from them -- Once again, if you think of giving to a nonprofit as a one-way street, you lose. The beauty of being involved with a nonprofit organization is in knowing you are helping to make a difference one person at a time.
10. Lead by example -- Don't just stop at giving, set the pace and challenge other organizations to give. There are really no excuses as every company in this country can donate something, whether it is money, time or pencils. It all helps.
For more information about Knowledge Anywhere, visit www.knowledgeanywhere.com; to learn about the National Urban League, go to www.nul.org.
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