By Jason Beyer and Amanda Mancuso
Nonprofit and for-profit companies may appear to be polar opposites, but many have the same core focus for their company culture—making an impact on the people their products or mission serve, and promoting a healthy corporate culture with engaged, inspired employees.
Both types of organizations would be remiss in overlooking natural opportunities to partner together. But with countless worthy organizations in need of an ally, what criteria should be in place, where does the relationship start and what should be the mutually agreed upon goal?
Chiesi USA, a Cary, North Carolina-based pharmaceutical company, explains their approach to corporate social responsibility and finding the right causes and nonprofit partners.
In our experience, working with groups that are aligned with our business focus areas and operations lend to natural synergies and collaboration. Chiesi USA has always been committed to supporting the communities it serves, both in our local community and those whose lives our products touch. Because Chiesi USA serves cystic fibrosis patients, we work closely with groups supporting the call to find a cure and spread awareness for the rare disease. We also have the opportunity to help improve the lives of the tiniest of patients experiencing respiratory distress through one of our products used in neonatal intensive care units around the country. For this reason, we work closely with March of Dimes.
However, at times, the products or services offered by a potential partner may not have an obvious, direct connection to your cause. In this case, you can start by looking into your ideal partner’s roots. In the case of Chiesi USA, a core tenet of our CSR program is to support causes within our therapeutic areas, and as a global R&D-focused pharmaceutical company, we care about fostering advancements in science and education.
Starting off on the right foot
For any relationship to succeed, you have to spend time getting to know the other party. Start by researching your partner’s CSR program and then identify the areas they’ve noted as their passion and opportunity to make a difference.
In order to create our CSR program, we formed an employee committee to share ideas that ultimately created the foundation for our CSR mission and objectives. Collectively, we named our CSR program ‘Chiesi in the Community’.
The four key goals of our program are to impact communities through:
- therapeutic areas
- local sociocultural enhancement
- stakeholder engagement, and
- “time and treasure,” our keystone initiative to make direct impacts in the local community, reaching underserved youth in the Triangle area.
Our ultimate goal, create longstanding relationships that give us the chance connect deeply and develop a bond with our community.
If the company you are courting doesn’t have a formalized CSR program or can’t articulate their goals directly, it’s ok to start small; look for opportunities where an organization can benefit from collaboration with your nonprofit and move forward from there. This could be as simple as working with one group of employees to host a fundraiser or participate in a walk together. This will allow the company time to get to know your mission, what it’s like to work together and participate in a team-building and beneficial cause.
What’s at the Finish Line?
Remember the Rewards. Often people say they volunteer because they want to make a difference. How can nonprofits tap into this? We have observed that providing employees with volunteer opportunities makes a difference for our employees, not just the people we serve. We have had staff comment on how various experiences have touched them personally, by signaling what’s important and encouraging a better work-life balance. Reminding potential partner companies of these benefits—that go beyond simply supporting a great cause but that transform the professional experience of employees—is the best way to seal any corporate/nonprofit partnership.
Built to last. While there are some causes that can benefit from a one-and-done approach, most need continued watering and care to grow. One way to ensure a program can flourish is by setting it up with sustainability in mind. For example, while working with a local elementary school to foster science education, a portion of the budget will be focused on ensuring sustainability of the program, as we look to replicate the program approach with deserving elementary schools in the Triangle area moving forward.
As with any business, nonprofits need to plan. Create a strategy and at the end of the day find the reasons that allow you and a partner to believe in the impact you can make together. If you can identify the intersection of a business need and a community opportunity, it’s a win for everyone.
Jason Beyer, MBA is the Sr. Director, Strategy and Corporate Development at Chiesi USA. He has more than 15 years of experience in the commercial pharmaceutical and medical device space with a focus on implementation of strategic initiatives for inpatient and outpatient care settings.
Amanda Mancuso, MBA is the Sr. Director of Human Resources at Chiesi USA. She holds more than 20 years of experience in strategy, communications, and human resources.