We all want to do good in the world. Agencies have a strong tradition of taking on pro bono work for nonprofits -- this sometimes means designing a logo or creating a brochure; other times it's sponsoring an event, or even just simply offering advice.
Those things serve an immediate need, but they don't necessarily make a lasting impact.
If you want to make a substantial difference, dive deeper: Adopt a nonprofit for one year, and treat it like a paying client. It's a mutually beneficial strategy: The nonprofit gets high-quality attention and resources, and the agency gets an infusion of positive exposure.
How Agencies Can Serve Non-Profits
Finding a Great Match
There are thousands of amazing organizations out there -- choosing just one is difficult. To select a nonprofit that will benefit from your services, send out an application that asks organizations to explain their mission and goals.
One requirement of your adoption should be that your agency will make a quarterly presentation to the nonprofit's board, updating them on progress and next steps. Why does this matter? Because community and business leaders tend to be active in the nonprofit scene, so the potential connections could prove invaluable.
When making your selection, consider each nonprofit's board membership. Does the board include individuals who would be beneficial for your agency to get in front of? Any potential business prospects? The nonprofit itself probably won't be able to hire your agency after the yearlong adoption, but if you can score just one client from its board, that's a great return on investment.
Partnering with a nonprofit benefits your agency beyond the bottom line. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, nearly two-thirds of CEOs are increasing their corporate social responsibility efforts, in part in pursuit of intangible benefits such as bolstered consumer trust. Studies have shown that workplace philanthropy initiatives improve employee morale, increase motivation, and boost the company's reputation among employees. It will also improve your agency's reputation and broaden its exposure.
Begin the relationship like you would with any other client. Take the nonprofit through your discovery process to learn everything you can about what it's trying to accomplish, the resources it has available, what's worked for the organization in the past, and what's been challenging.
An All-Around Win
When you adopt a nonprofit for a year, you change its trajectory. My agency has been doing this for more than a decade, and we've never had a nonprofit say we didn't make a difference.
Just taking nonprofits through our discovery process points them in a better direction. We help them articulate their message. We force them to get clear about who they are, what they do, who they help, and what they need from the community to deliver those services.
How can you make the biggest impact? Help nonprofits create events or improve upon them. For instance, one nonprofit we adopted held an annual event that brought in $25,000. We revamped the soiree, and it now nets more than $300,000 each year. Talk about a sustainable, lasting difference.
Adopting a nonprofit is, of course, about leveraging your resources to do good, but there's no reason why you can't get some traction out of the initiative, too. Once you make your selection, send out a news release. Throughout the year, report on your progress and what your partnership has accomplished.
5 Steps for Making a Big Difference
Any work you do for a nonprofit helps it carry out its mission. But to maximize the good your agency does, take these five steps.
1) Create your adoption plan.
Drum up a PR plan for how to get the word out to nonprofits about your adoption initiative. Press releases work well -- it's a feel-good story, so the local media will usually be more than happy to spread the information. Consider calling up your local United Way and asking it to notify the nonprofits it serves.
2) Select the nonprofit.
Use specific criteria to select the perfect nonprofit for your agency. The organization should align with your company culture and champion a cause you and your team care about. Also, consider what difference you'll be able to make in both the short and long term -- even if your team is passionate about a cause, it won't be a good partnership if there's not much of an impact to be made.
3) Align with the proper vendors.
In some cases, the nonprofit may have needs that go beyond your agency's skill set. If that's the case, it helps to have a network of vendors you can call on to join the cause. These vendors can include audio companies, videographers, web developers, photographers, or others.
4) Treat the nonprofit like it's a paying client.
The discovery process is essential for figuring out what the nonprofit needs. Learn what resources it has available and what its team can take care of. Think through what you can do for the nonprofit, as well as any skills or strategies you can add to its toolbox so it can sustain the marketing strategy year after year.
5) Keep the process going.
If you're doing things right, word will get out about your nonprofit work. Be sure to maintain a spot on your website to outline your initiative, share news, and provide the application for other organizations to apply next year. Make sure the application deadline remains the same year after year so nonprofits always know when to apply.
If you want to truly make a difference, adopt a nonprofit for a year. The organization and the community it serves will benefit, your agency will get great exposure, and, if you do it right, you'll net some new clients along the way. It's good for business, and it'll make you feel good, too.