We don't have to buy what you are selling: Four pieces of advise before a company approaches a non-profit.
Corporate social responsibility - something most medium to large companies involve themselves in. But if you are not H&M or Gates Foundation and can set your agenda (and if that is the right approach or not is a different discussion), you probably have to collaborate with a non-profit or nongovernmental organization (NGO) along the way. Trust me, I have had at least 30 meetings like this and to make your collaboration as successful as possible, I have created a list of four things I think everyone should know before approaching a potential NGO or non-profit partner.
We don’t have to buy what you are selling.
We know what is best for us, and when I say us, I mean all of our partners and experts together. There are thousands of local experts and millions of local volunteers that want to do good in their society. They only lack funding and power to do so. Information flow has until now taught you differently, but this image is possible to change.
It is about time we listen to the needs before suggesting a solution, just like we do in business! So don’t approach your potential partner with your idea of how they should solve their problems. If you still do and are turned down - don’t be offended. The absolute best thing you can do is building something together. It makes it more fun for everyone involved.
Time is money.
Yes, even for us! So please don’t waste our time. If you are not 100% serious with what you suggest, don’t suggest it at all, not in an organized meeting and not at a dinner party after a few drinks. Most of us work pro bono, and if we don’t, we do a lot more than we are paid for. Yes. It is a choice we have made, but respect that choice by not wasting our time. Treat us just like you would a business partner.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
As an NGO or non-profit, you often need to act before you have all the funding in place. It means getting things rolling and then making it up as you go along. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way you have to go about it to make things happen. Recently I had a meeting with a company that promised (shakes my hand and said, “you can count on us”) to sponsor one of our projects. It equaled me getting in touch with other actors and getting the ball rolling. Three months later, the company decided to withdraw, leaving me with a massive gap in my budget. They had a valid reason, but still, don’t initiate the discussion if you are not sure. If this was business, I could have taken action, but when it comes to charity, pro bono or whatever you want to call it - business rules do not apply. Yet.
The one that will profit the most is you.
Moving ahead in time, and you will soon launch your non-profit project together with your partner! Congratulations on a journey you will never forget and a subject you can bring to dinner parties for years and years to come. Your company will probably sell more. Your staff will feel good about working at a place where they make a difference. Always keep that in mind and be grateful for it. Giving is the greatest gift of all. It’s not just a saying.
Thank you for reading this. I might be uncomfortable for some, but now you are prepared to start that discussion and begin a whole new journey — best of luck.
Terese Lann Welin - founder of My Period is Awesome
It is the writer who stands for the opinions expressed in the text.