07/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Corporate Expertise Creates Measurable Benefits For Non-Profits

In recent years, corporate social responsibility has become increasingly mainstream, which has prompted more innovative partnerships between companies and their nonprofit partners. As a nonprofit executive, I see these partnerships to be most fruitful when they combine three key ingredients: senior corporate leadership, shared expertise, and financial investments.

When the top-level corporate executives endorse a nonprofit, their teams are quick to follow that lead. For example, the corporate mentoring partnerships that produce the most mentors for Higher Achievement are driven by the top level management. And, when corporate leaders join Higher Achievement's Board of Directors or President's Council, their involvement deepens, extending to their companies, vendors and clients.

Further, more and more companies are leveraging their professional expertise to benefit nonprofit organizations. Last year, in partnership with CityBridge Foundation and ServiceCorps, several human resource executives produced an HR audit and a compensation benchmarking study for Higher Achievement, just as we were embarking on a national expansion plan. As a result of the study:

  • Staff retention increased from 59% - 83%
  • In turn, retention of students in our program has improved from 63% - 76%. Middle-school scholar retention is essential for our mission of top high school placement.
  • This pro-bono relationship also saved us a lot of money! If we had hired consultants, it would have cost about $15,000.

Pro-bono consulting is a meaningful opportunity for the for-profit and non-profit worlds to intersect. As more and more of the best companies set a higher standard for corporate social responsibility, other companies follow. These partnerships encourage greater business savvy among nonprofits, which ultimately enables us to accomplish our mission more effectively and efficiently.

Always important, nonprofit organizations are very grateful for every dollar raised to support its mission. Whether $5 from a student or $50,000 from a corporation, these dollars go far to improve our communities.

Organizations such as the CityBridge Foundation help companies set the higher standard for corporate social responsibility. For many years, CityBridge Foundation has been a great source of mentors for our program. While the pipeline of mentors continues, they have also worked in partnership with us to further our relationship. Those innovations include customized one-day service experiences for their corporate employees, pro bono service and new board members. The three key ingredients I mentioned above: senior corporate leadership, shared expertise, and financial investments are present with each new program innovation.

We at Higher Achievement know that all young people have infinite potential. It's exciting for us to expose our local business community to that potential and expose our scholars to the local business community.