Posted on February 24, 2012 by Rhian Rotz — 2 Comments
This week, a small group of Waggener Edstrom (WE) colleagues volunteered at the Neighborhood House food pantry. WE also supported the project with a financial contribution that will provide meals for 190 people. Neighborhood House has been bringing the community together to help neighbors in need since 1905. It’s an example of one of the many thousands of nonprofit organizations on the frontline of fighting hunger in the US and one of millions of charitable organizations in the world. Charity has been a virtue recognized and fostered throughout human history and I like to say that Neighborhood House and every nonprofit organization represents the heartbeat of social change because they are the ones that truly make things happen. Without them, society would be lost.
I was recently chatting with a friend who works for a nonprofit about the constraints and challenges associated with partnerships between commercial and nonprofits that want to leverage their areas of expertise to work together and achieve broader impact. There are numerous examples of positive, sophisticated public –private partnerships that extend beyond volunteer projects like the example I shared with Neighborhood House. For example, text4baby.org (National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition/HMHB, CTIA Foundation, Johnson & Johnson) and We Can Be Heroes (DC Entertainment and Mercy Corps. Disclosure: Mercy Corps is a WE Pro-Bono Client). As the number of public-private relationship increase, it is important, especially for those who hold the purse strings, to listen to nonprofits and be mindful of their needs and the tensions that may exist, e.g. business success can be pit against achievement of social goals or joint programs may not meet development goals. My point is; we have so much to learn from the nonprofits and have a responsibility to actively listen to them.
This is what I had in mind when my team signed up for the 2012 Volunteer Manager’s Summit organized by the City of Bellevue (February 24). The summit is free, casual but serious about civic engagements and will involve a variety of workshops brainstorming/idea sharing forums. More than three-quarters of the 300 attendees will represent the nonprofitsector. The main reason why WE’s corporate citizenship team have chosen to invest the time to attend is because of our desire to build relationships and learn from nonprofits. Shelly Shellabarger, Volunteer Program Coordinator, City of Bellevue asked WE to participate in a Corporate Connections panel discussion, with representatives from Puget Sound Energy, Microsoft, Banner Bank and others. I hope the session will be informative for the audience; however, I have greater hope that my fellow participants on the panel will be as intrigued and curious about asking nonprofits about their perspective about how corporations can be better partners too.