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updated: 11/21/2017 1:48 PM

How to partner with a nonprofit

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Charitable giving has really changed. Companies have changed the way that they give and partner with nonprofits. Long-term charitable partnerships are desirable and more successful than cash only one-time donations, benefiting both the company and the nonprofit organization in many positive ways.

Find a natural fit: Identify a nonprofit organization that naturally aligns with your company's core values and mission. For example, if your company produces or prepares food, then a local food depository or social service organization might make sense to support. In our case, we as business owners, are avid gardeners and support youth education causes, so we've partnered up with The Talking Farm, a Skokie-based nonprofit that carries out urban agriculture education through jobs, internships and volunteer projects with schools. Our franchise applied and was awarded a $2,500 corporate ServiceMaster We Serve grant in 2016 that attracted local press.

Do research: Before committing to partner with a nonprofit organization, your company will need to do some research. Request the nonprofit organization's financial statements, hold a meeting with the board members and a separate meeting with the chief operational officer/executive director, and reach out to any other existing or previous corporate partners. Assess the financial health of the nonprofit and seek information about what kind of partner they are when developing long-term partnerships. Do they assign committed staff or volunteers for signature events? Is the executive director responsive? A solid nonprofit organization partnership will last for a number of years, so you want to know who you are developing a relationship with.

Make a plan: While it may be exciting to jump in right away, assign team members and contribute financial resources to the nonprofit's activities, it is important for your company to set some clear goals about what both organizations are trying to achieve. Your company should have, at minimum, a charitable giving plan outlining your company's core values and what you are trying to achieve with the nonprofit partnership. This plan will address how much employee time will be allocated and outline your charitable giving budget. It is also a good idea spend some time with the potential nonprofit organization and identify what they are seeking from corporate partners.

Have exposure: As your company is seeking out nonprofits to develop partnerships with, keep in mind that a successful partnership should positively strengthen your company's image and overall public exposure in the community through service projects and interactions that are developed. It should be a win-win for your company. Try to attract press for key events and do write-ups (blogs or social media posts) on your company's website. Make sure your company's logo is visible on the nonprofit's website and you should include the nonprofit partnership in company marketing materials.

Involve the entire team: Include the entire company from the front lines to senior management in the nonprofit partnership. When the nonprofit partnership is part of the company culture and mission, employee morale improves because team members want to participate in rewarding and meaningful projects that are off-site, varying from the typical work routine. Companies should communicate what the charitable work is about, when events will occur, and be clear about why the company is partnering with the organization.

• Nasutsa Mabwa is president of ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons in Chicago,