Cause marketing is usually reserved for the big rollers, but there are ways small and medium-sized companies can team up with worthy nonprofits to do good and be noticed.
One way is through Social Venture Partners (SVP), which serves as a matchmaker for companies that want to contribute and nonprofits that need the help.
SVP – which operates in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and Calgary – sponsors a program called Encore Fellows. The idea is to connect seasoned private-sector professionals with nonprofits with specific resource deficits in areas such as human resources, organizational design, financial management and marketing communications.
Encore Fellows agree to provide 1,000 hours of their time over a six to 12-month period. Fellows receive a stipend – typically $20,000, which can be paid by the employer, the nonprofit, SVP or some combination.
While this may not seem the equal of glossy relationships with more of a retail edge, the fellowships can mean life or death to a promising, but struggling nonprofit doing good work.
One of the fellowships featured on the SVP website involves semi-retired Portlander Wendy Weissman, who has worked at General Electric and Hewlett-Packard. She teamed up with Friends of the Children, a youth-mentorship nonprofit, lending her HR expertise to assist with leadership development and process-improvement programs.
Even though Weissman completed her 1,000-hour fellowship, she is volunteering additional time. "My heart got hooked," she says. "It's a dream come true."
With the growing number of Baby Boomers retiring or moving toward retirement, they afford an ample supply of talent to tap and a pool of people with a strong desire to put their talents to good use in the twilight of their careers. Many nonprofits have gaps or challenges they can't afford to fill with a full-time employee or an expensive outside consultant. It is a perfect and fairly obvious match.
For a relatively small investment, a small company can loan one of its senior people – or a recently retired employee – to a nonprofit, creating a beneficial partnership with tangible, local outcomes.
SVP has placed more than 250 senior professionals in high-impact nonprofits, according to Jim McGinley, the director of Seattle's Encore Fellows program. He expects that number to grow dramatically.
"Finding quality candidates who are looking for a second act in their careers is the least of our problems," McGinley says. "The focus now is on finding the right companies."
It is a perfect set-up for companies that want to make an impact in their community – and in the minds of their customers.