TeamBuilding through Corporate Philanthropy

Corporate philanthropy works best when there is a true partnership in place. As we know from my Huff Post article, there needs to be a return on the investment for the corporation.

What if the ROI brought not only dollars, but also volunteers and meaningful skilled labor to the organization that directly benefitted the nonprofit’s service recipients?

Further more, what if the corporation was able to utilize their interaction with the nonprofit as an opportunity for their staff members to bond and serve the community in a meaningful way together?

How do these unique corporate sponsorships start? A lot earlier than you would think. Karen Begin, Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity in San Diego, says, “So many people volunteer for Habitat in some way shape or form in high school college or through work. When these individuals get into executive-level positions, they recall their positive experience with Habitat when their companies are looking to serve in the community.”

There is a source of funds from corporations that most nonprofits have not thought to tap. Many large corporations have money budgeted for staff development and teambuilding through human resources. These funds are in addition to the company’s marketing and sponsorship dollars. Habitat has found a unique and incredible way for employees to bond and support a charity. Begin says, “Not only do companies want to give back, they want an amazing experience for their employees to volunteer so they feel good, doing good.” Habitat offers that for groups of 10 or 400 employees ranging in sponsorship levels from $5,000 to $250,000. “We work with companies at their level and can always find an experience or an opportunity for companies to volunteer even if the company only has a couple hundred dollars to contribute.”

It helps that it is easy for company’s to buy into Habitat’s mission. Habitat has a story that is easy to understand: a stable, safe home is the catalyst for many positive changes for a family. At the corporate team build day, employees often have the opportunity to alongside the partner family who will receive the home. Each employee learns a skill like putting up drywall or molding – a skill that is different from his or her day-to-day work skills. The home building experience often allows the company President and an associate to work side-by-side – an opportunity that may not naturally occur in the office.

Currently, Habitat for Humanity San Diego is building 11 homes in Escondido, 6 homes in Imperial Beach and 6 in El Cajon. There will be four homes built in 5 days from the ground up during the last week of June 2015 in El Cajon through Habitat’s Home Builder Blitz. Each home is sponsored by one or more local builders who leverage their relationships in the building industry to gain donations of building products and labor with a goal of building the homes at zero cost to Habitat.

Habitat is flexible in providing a team building corporate experience and has the capacity to bring the experience to the corporation. The executives from MBK Senior Living communities are hosting their annual retreat in La Jolla this year and as part of the retreat, they wanted to have a teambuilding experience. Through a partnership with Habitat San Diego, the team will take a half-day of their retreat to build and paint 5 playhouses for 5 partner families – and make a donation of $2,500 per playhouse. Habitat will then distribute the playhouses to the families to reside on the property of their new homes.

It is not just cash gifts from corporations, in-kind contributions are a huge component of Habitat’s budget. Construction in-kind materials and service donations total $101,000 year-to-date (July 2014-February 2015) with a budgeted $270,000 for next fiscal year. Companies like Home Depot and Lowe’s give both in-kind materials and cash. For the Home Builder Blitz event, each homebuilder (Belfour Beatty, Clark, McCarthy, RQ Construction) takes on building one house. They call all their subcontractors to request in-kind services and supplies from their subcontractors (like drywall, plumbing, lighting, framing and electric). This type of donation allows homes to be built quickly (in 5 days!) and professionally.

And then there is the ROI of Recognition for corporations through Habitat. Begin recognizes that “it is feel good stories of Habitat that attract the press. The message is not just about Habitat doing good work; it is often tied to the corporate sponsor sending out 100 people to build half a home in one day. The media has opportunities to interview the partner family and the corporation.”

It helps that Habitat is a nonprofit organization with household recognition. Most people know that Habitat builds homes for families in need. Ms. Begin recognizes that “not every nonprofit can offer team building experiences to for-profit corporations like Habitat, but the key to successful corporate partnerships is to find unique experiences that allow corporate employees to interact with each other and with the nonprofit’s service recipients.”

If you want to learn more about corporate philanthropy, attend North County Philanthropy Council’s upcoming panel discussion around corporate philanthropy this Friday, May 1 at 11:30 a.m. at the Sheraton in Carlsbad.

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