Guest post by Ellen Walthour, Executive Director, The BrandLab.
PadillaCRT’s Minneapolis office is home to The BrandLab in 2016.
The BrandLab, the nonprofit organization I work for, is always on the move. It’s an annual ritual for us and, while it causes headaches and backaches for a few days, it’s a process we actually appreciate each year. That’s because the office space we use is donated by generous companies who support us, both physically and financially.
The BrandLab has existed for only seven years, but we’ve moved in to our fifth home. Like many nonprofits, we don’t require much: five desks, a copy machine, access to meeting rooms, and a warm, welcoming environment. A tiny bit of square footage in the corner of a multi-million dollar business is all it really takes to make us happy. While this might be peanuts to a corporation’s bottom line, it’s gold to a nonprofit like ours with an annual operating budget under $550,000.
Besides the obvious financial benefit, being a nomadic organization offers advantages to us, as well as to our host for-profit companies. It’s a beneficial relationship that all nonprofits and for-profits should consider, and here’s why:
- Corporate and brand reputation is held in high regard, and companies are often looking for unique ways to support a higher purpose by collaborating with the nonprofit sector. Is there a non–profit in town that keeps asking for your support but you are unsure how to help them? Donating space is easier than you think.
- Partnering so closely with a nonprofit partner boosts morale, there’s no doubt about it. Employees at the host site feel great about their employer because they know the person who hired them values giving back.
- We grow awareness of our work. When we’re in the house, our hosts own our mission too. They now have a stake in what we do since we share our mission informally at the coffee station, in the elevator, and even more formally through collaboration with staff volunteers. The host’s employees get to know why the nonprofit staff members care so deeply about what they do, and often get personally involved in the work. Seeing firsthand the work that goes into making the nonprofit’s mission a reality and the people who are positively affected can translate into new long term volunteers and financial supporters.
The BrandLab may be unique in the nonprofit landscape. Our mission is intrinsically linked to a for-profit world, which makes finding hosts easier. We work to change the face and voice of the marketing industry to be more reflective of the nation’s demographics to ensure the industry continues to thrive. When building a nonprofit/for-profit partnership, look for synergy like this; orgs that clearly align with a shared vision.
So, think about it. Nonprofits, is your organization struggling with overhead costs? For-profits, could your organization carve out a bit of space for a nonprofit to share for a year? If you find a way to make it work, I can guarantee that your new roommate will be so grateful that they will never ever forget to do their dishes.