Benefits of Partnering with Non-Profit Organizations: Why It’s Good for your Business

Even though this 2020 season has been tremendously difficult in many respects, partnering with non-profit organizations can be a terrific opportunity to bring attention to positive and helpful actions taking place within your community—while also uplifting your staff and customers.

Here are nine ways you can work with non-profit organizations to create value that is mutually beneficial: attract new customers, boost your business, your credibility and your staff’s morale, and support your values… while supporting the good work the non-profit organization is doing within your community.

9 Ways Adventure Brands Benefit from Partnering with Non-Profit Organizations

1. A partnership with a non-profit organization is a great way to reach diverse groups from communities you may not have previously reached.

You have a wonderful opportunity to begin growing your inclusive reach by partnering up with diversity-focused organizations and groups.

Ways to do this include:

  • Set up an affiliate link to support specific organizations as your customers are purchasing online.
  • Develop a Give Back day and send a percentage of that day’s or trip’s revenue to a specific organization.
  • Create a subsidized trip for the organization and work together to market it.
  • Partner up on adventure and community service.

Inspiration:
REI supports Outdoor Afro and other organizations like Latino Outdoors, Black Girls RUN!, Brown Girls Climb, TranSending, and many others who strive for a more inclusive outdoors through unique affiliate links.

2. The work the non-profit is doing complements the adventure products you offer.

Partnering with a non-profit organization can help facilitate the role your business plays in the care of the environment and/or communities you operate in.

Ways to do this include:

  • Partnering up with clean-up initiatives by donating trips, time, staff, etc.
  • Spearheading your own initiatives.
  • Amplifying the efforts of non-profit organizations.
  • Donating to non-profit organizations on behalf of your business.

Inspiration:

Wilderness Voyageurs hosts scout groups every year to champion a Japanese Knotwood Removal Program on the Youghiogheny River—along with initiatives throughout the year for watershed projects.

Rios Tropicales launched their own Rainforest Reserve to protect the Costa Rica rainforest, They have planted over 30,000 native hardwood trees since 2000 and involved their guests, community groups, and university partnerships to make it happen. The company is now carbon neutral and mitigates over 17,500 tons of carbon annually!

3. Your mutual organizations benefit from cross-marketing to each other’s audiences.

When you partner with a non-profit organization, there may be some nice audience overlap and extensions of demographics and interests where cross-marketing benefits both organizations.

Ways to do this include:

  • Amplifying each other’s brand on social media, on each other’s websites, and in newsletters.
  • Developing a joint marketing campaign that brings demographic/interest-based audiences together.

Inspiration:
People who take part in river clean ups may certainly be rafters or water people, but they may not have experienced your adventure brand yet. Likewise, your rafters may be very interested in supporting the non-profit you’ve partnered with, but don’t know much about the organization or how to get involved.

4. Joining forces with a non-profit organization inspires your team.

There’s a lot to be said about being a part of a business that takes on a mutually beneficial partnership based on strong values. Don’t be surprised if you see a jump in your team’s engagement with a renewed sense of purpose! Not to mention the additional skills and leadership your employees can grow through involvement in events, communication, and marketing efforts.

Ways to do this:

  • Involve your team in the decision-making process when selecting a non-profit to partner with.
  • Consider offering your team some number of paid hours for approved volunteer work annually.
  • Encourage your team to bring ideas for the partnership to the table, and delegate tasks to interested staff.

Inspiration:
Liquid Spark provides our team with paid time off to do volunteer hours, up to 10 hours a year. Our team votes on non-profit organizations we want to donate to for our annual 1% for the Planet donation.

5. Partnering up with a non-profit organization gives your current customers and followers something new to get behind, which can sky rocket your brand loyalty.

Consider this research insight document done by IBM and the Nation Retail Federation in June 2020:

Sustainability has reached a tipping point. As consumers increasingly embrace social causes, they seek products and brands that align with their values. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers surveyed are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Nearly eight in 10 respondents indicate sustainability is important for them. And for those who say it is very/extremely important, over 70 percent would pay a premium of 35 percent, on average, for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.”

How this applies to experience-driven brands:

If your adventure brand can align with your customer’s values when it comes to being socially and environmentally responsible, it becomes an easy decision for them. This also goes for the new audience you’ll undoubtedly reach through a partnership with a non-profit. After all, a partnership is the strongest kind of endorsement you can give and get at the same time. Your people will want to support the non-profit, and the non-profit’s audience will want to support you.

Ways to do this:

  • Highlight the partnership with the non-profit organization on your website.
  • Call out your involvement with the non-profit organization via your client communication, like newsletters.
  • Amplify your participation with the non-profit via social media.
  • If you have an online store, consider an affiliate link customers can use to donate a portion of their purchase to the non-profit.
  • Consider monthly promotions to benefit the non-profit (and your customers!)
  • Share updates regarding your partnership and the work the non-profit is doing.
  • Encourage the non-profit organization to amplify your adventure brand, too.

Inspiration:
Environmental powerhouse Stream2Sea has also set up affiliate links via a dedicated landing page for their non-profit partners where customers can “shop to support” the non-profit partner of their choice. A portion of the customer’s online purchase is donated to that non-profit each month.

6. Non-profit partnerships offer tax advantages to your business.

Your business can likely write off your involvement with your chosen non-profit as a taxable donation. And of course, your partner non-profit organization gains new visibility, funding, and networking opportunities. Obviously, check with your accountant on the details.

Ways to do this:

  • Discuss funding options – in kind, cash, a mix –  with the non-profit organization you’d like to partner with.
  • Read this blog to learn how you can make giving a part of your business model.
  • Consider inventory sales – got too much inventory that needs a new home? Discounted sales or donations can help both your business and the non-profit.
  • Donated services may be expensed.

Inspiration:
Liquid Spark expenses services and donates cash to our Liquid Spark Foundation every year. We are also 1% for the Planet; this is an organization we feel strongly about supporting because it allows us to walk our talk in People, Place, Planet. It’s incredibly meaningful to us to donate 1% of our total profits yearly.

7. This is an opportunity to enforce your adventure brand’s values within your industry and community through earned media.

A properly planned partnership can lead to positive (and free!) press coverage and media attention for both your business and the non profit you are partnering with. This is called “earned media”: media you receive that is not paid advertising or placements, and it isn’t your own branding communications.

Ways to do this:

  • Work with your adventure brand marketing agency and your non-profit partner on your PR strategy, from press releases to story pitches, live interviews and hosted media visits.

Inspiration:
Consider how this helps position both your adventure brand and the non-profit as leaders in socially and/or environmentally responsible efforts within your local community and industry. It also allows for great newsworthy articles to leverage on social media.  While press is often hard to get, it is worth its weight in gold. Google loves high quality, external media links coming in to your great content!

8. A partnership with a non-profit organization can open the doors to new offerings.

Regardless of whether the non-profit is adventure-based, education-based, or product-based… consider how you can merge what you both do into a new offering for your respective audiences.  This gives everyone involved something entirely new to experience and market.

Ways to do this:

  • Consider how you can merge your adventure with what the non-profit offers, and price accordingly to cover the cost of your trip/tour—as well as offer value to the non-profit, volunteer work as part of the experience, etc.

Inspiration:
River and Trail Outfitters has embraced youth education as a part of their business model by developing a seven-mile canoe trip for school groups, youth groups, and even environmental groups on the Chesapeake Bay. And because they believe the health of the watershed is dependent upon the actions of every citizen, the price for the experience is extremely reasonable. They also have grants available to ensure participation is available for everyone.

Keys Diver regularly partners with the Coral Restoration Foundation: the dive shop donates its boat and crew for the dive trip, and can market the great opportunity to join an out-planting dive with CRF. This is a recurring dive trip that gives the dive shop’s customers the chance to do something completely unique and meaningful, and supports CRF’s missions and efforts.

9. Create your own non-profit if you can’t find an existing one that meets your business & sustainability needs and vision.

Sometimes your adventure brand is spearheading its own initiatives on a consistent basis. Other times, you might identify a true “hole” in the non-profit world that you are in a unique position to fill. In these instances, creating your own non-profit to operate under the umbrella of your adventure brand makes complete sense!

Ways to do this:

Inspiration:
Our founder, Julie, started the Liquid Spark Foundation; a mission and values-driven non-profit created to fill a missing need in line with her values for women’s empowerment and education.

OARS created the Pam and George Wendt Foundation (originally the OARS Foundation) by subsidizing adventure trips for at-risk youth. Their goal is to serve 500 youth per year. This is also an example of a simple foundation set up and operating through OARS communications and marketing. It offers OARS great press, and is an easy give for them as it runs on a mix of donations and percentage of their revenue.

Want more tips specific to adventure companies during this period of disruption?

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