How to Find a Nonprofit Partner That Aligns with Your Business Strategy


Today’s consumers not only want, but need corporations to support causes that better the world. Research shows 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

We spoke with Melanie Newell, Chief of Staff at Catalist about how corporations should be prioritizing corporate social responsibility (CSR), and how defining that strategy will help your organization find a perfect nonprofit partner based on your goals.

Quote from Melanie Newell from Catalist, "It's not a bonus if your company is doing good, it's an expectation."

Newell offered her best tips for corporations. In her words, “It’s not a bonus if your company is doing good, it’s an expectation.”

Most businesses fall into one of three categories in terms of their CSR history:

  • Newcomers: those who are looking to enter the CSR world.
  • Old Hats: those who were early adopters of CSR.
  • Refiners: those looking to streamline their CSR strategy.

Whether your company is big or small, sophisticated in CSR or not, here are some tips to work smarter and not harder in this important and competitive space.

Define & Align or Refine

Newell says, “A brand or a company ideally should have a holistic CSR or cause-driven strategy before identifying right-fit nonprofit partners. They need to define and align internally – What are the goals? What are the outcomes they’re looking to achieve?”

Being able to answer these questions is a critical first step to take before attempting to identify a complementary nonprofit partner. Think about your CSR goals as well as general business objectives. Where does your organization stand in relation to these goals and objectives today? Understanding where you are will help determine where you want to go; and may bring clarity to the nonprofit partner search.

Figure Out What Makes Your Company Different

Lacoste x Save Our Species PolosNewell says, “In order for a brand to stand out from the crowd and really leverage what they’re doing in social-good, they’ve got to differentiate themselves.”

A critical element for corporations is to determine and continually strategize around what qualities make them unique. Discovering the points that make your corporation stand out will help in the process of identifying nonprofit partners. For example, Lacoste, perhaps best known for their iconic polo shirt featuring a crocodile logo, partnered with The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to release a new line of limited edition polos featuring ten endangered species. This was the first change of the logo since the brand’s inception in 1933. Half of the profits of every polo sold went directly to IUCN, funding tangible nature protection actions and the other half was invested in communication to give visibility to the cause and the Save Our Species program. The polos sold out in less than 24 hours; showing the power a creative, engaging, and right-fit partnership can have.

Engage Employees to Define Your CSR Strategy

Newell says, “Employees are an important stakeholder audience that should not be ignored. Many companies are in fact engaging their employee bases to help drive and define their CSR and cause strategies.”

Not sure where to start or how to refine an existing CSR strategy? Ask your employees. You may be able to identify trends in the interests of your employee base. This may be helpful in locating a few causes and nonprofit organizations that fit in with your discoveries.

You should consider selecting a nonprofit partner that can provide team building experiences for your employees. Volunteering as an organization is a great way to impact the community in which you work as well as strengthen employee relationships. Check out how we run our turnkey employee volunteer program.

Do Your Research

“At the end of the day, nonprofit partnerships really should help directly achieve internal CSR or cause-driven goals.”

Quote from Keri at IGS Energy about their partnership with Operation Warm, " We partnered with Operation Warm because there is such a strong alignment between their mission and our business - the value of keeping someone warm."When considering a nonprofit partner, it’s important to look into the fine details of that organization. How many employees work at the nonprofit? Would the team be able to manage a partnership with your corporation? Does the nonprofit operate locally, nationally, or even globally? It’s a good idea for corporations to find the answers to questions like these to ensure the best partnership is identified.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to identifying potential nonprofit partners. For example, take a look at our partnership with IGS Energy. You may wonder what an energy company and Operation Warm have in common? How do we support each other’s goals? The answer is simple: we both provide warmth to families throughout the country. For some additional inspiration, check out some of our other diverse corporate partners.


Interested in aligning your organization with Operation Warm’s mission to provide warmth, confidence and hope to children in need?  Learn more about our corporate partnership opportunities.

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