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Nonprofits know the success of the community service work they do can depend on securing partners in the for-profit business community to support their mission. However, finding that support is the challenge, especially during COVID-19 when many businesses’ budgets are already stretched.

Panelists at NJBIA’s recent “Bridging the Gap” online summit urged nonprofits to focus first on building relationships with mission-driven corporations because “support” comes in many forms, not just financial. For-profit partners also provide volunteers, in-kind services and donated equipment, vehicles and supplies.

“For-profits have funding constraints and sometimes funding could be already committed in a particular year,” explained NJM Chief Giving Officer Pat Hartpence. “But many for-profits can assist in other ways such as providing employee volunteers, donating equipment and furniture, providing printing services, office tours and educational sessions.”

However, the first step in the collaborative process is identifying mission-driven for-profit companies and building a relationship with them before the subject of financial support is even broached, the panelists agreed.

Megan Shea, co-founder of the Soulfull Project, emphasized the importance of networking with contacts who work at “certified B corporations,” which are companies that use business as a force for good. Certified B corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose, she said.

“It stands for something more than just returns to your shareholders,” Shea explained. “What’s really amazing about B certified companies is that they span every industry from manufacturing and construction to banking, to real estate to consulting …” she said. These companies also attract talented and motivated employees who want to donate their time and talent to charitable causes.

Hartpence suggested nonprofits can make connections at organizations such as Princeton Community Works, which she called an “excellent forum” for nonprofit networking.  Nonprofit Connect NJ, is another resource because for-profit organizations that encourage nonprofit board service will have leaders involved in Nonprofit Connect NJ board training and networking programs.

One of the most essential traits of a nonprofit leader is the ability to collaborate successfully with for-profit businesses, said Dennis Miller, founder and chairman of DCM Associates and a nationally recognized expert in nonprofit leadership executive search.

“Collaboration is huge and it’s more than just about cooperating,” Miller said. “Collaboration today has a deeper meaning of truly working with others on a shared goal and working with your board. It’s not just finding funders, it’s finding investors … people that will invest in your success.”