Ways to Be Involved: A List of Community-Business Partnership Models
It is important to find a model that's right for both your group and your prospective partner - succeeding in this search is a key plank in laying the groundwork for a successful community-business partnership.
There are a number of community-business partnership models to choose from, and thousands of possible variations.
Some you might like to consider are:
Volunteering comes in regular or one-off opportunities for individual staff, groups of staff or even every staff member in the business for a working bee or large project.
Staff can join community groups, serve on community boards or committees, or just help out.
The sharing of skills and knowledge can occur both ways in a community business partnership. It can take the form of short, regular sessions over a long period of time or can be project based, such as an accountant being seconded to a community group at tax time. Really, any employee in your company may have a skill a community group is lacking. And rather than simply doing a job for a community group, skilled volunteering can focus on building the capacity of the community group to fulfil that function for itself in future.
Mentoring is a specialised form of skilled volunteering, where a mentor serves as a teacher and provides opportunities for professional development, growth and support to those with less experience. A company employee could mentor a staff member at a community group, or it could mentor one of the individuals that community group serves.
Business as collection point
A business can offer to collect money or goods for community groups either on a temporary or an ongoing basis. There is potential for increased patronage of the business when people make deliveries for the community group, and the community group can raise money and collect goods without having to provide the infrastructure or storage space.
This can be particularly suitable for small-to-medium enterprises because it does not involve a cash outlay. Businesses can donate goods or services or resources to community groups.
Pro bono or discounted services and products
Most often associated with the legal and accounting professions, pro bono contributions involve offering your staff's professional expertise at no cost. Providing them at a significantly discounted rate is another option.
Sponsorship can take the form of branding a logo on a uniform, securing naming rights for an event, or sponsoring projects or publications.
The business contribution does not have to be cash. In-kind support is also very effective.
Contributing premises or infrastructure
Community groups often lack the space to hold meetings, store goods or can even be in need of general office space. If you can spare some space, either once-a-month for meetings, for example, or on an ongoing basis, there is probably a community group in need of it.
Employment and work experience
A community partner can be involved in your employment practices by either advising you on how to cater for your employees (a disability group on how to accommodate people with disabilities, for example), or you might even employ one of your community partner's members or clients.
You can offer work experience to staff or volunteers from your community partner, or to the people they work with. It's a chance to share skills and abilities between business and the wider community.
Scholarships and Awards
A business can offer scholarships in partnership with a community group to enable people in the community to further their studies, conduct research, or pursue other endeavours they would not otherwise be able to afford.
A business and its community partner can also create awards to promote and acknowledge the work of individuals in that group or in the wider community. It could, for example, partner a local youth group for a regional Young Leaders Award.
The most basic kind of donation is monetary - yet that sort of donation can take on many forms in a community business partnership, including one-off donations from the company, employee giving schemes, donations to particular programs or projects, or staff fundraiser. While one-off donations are not strictly a partnership, they can be part of a wider partnership, or the beginning of one.
Advanced partnerships involve a degree of integration between a business and its community partner. They work together on what is usually a new project to achieve a particular social or environmental outcome. It might be devloping a product that is needed by and affordable for poor people, or it might be making a concerted effort to conserve or regenerate the environment in a particular area.