Friday, April 11, 2014

NonProfit/Private Sector Partnerships Are Mutually Beneficial

The March 18 NonProfit Roundtable featured two nonprofit/private sector partnerships that are making a difference, both for the corporate partner and the nonprofit partner. After the standard empowered introduction in which attendees shared how their organizations (and companies, for the attendees included both) partnered with a variety of organizations, agencies, companies and government offices, the deeper study commenced.

We started with a definition of “partnership,” specifically noting what kinds of partnerships we weren’t talking about. These included pure funding connections, such as corporate foundation or corporate grants; and corporate volunteer opportunities. Instead, we highlighted different kinds of partnerships.

The first presenter was Wendy Gershow ( of Combined Worksite Solutions ( Her company, which is national, had a variety of ways to engage with social benefits organizations and also engage its employees. In fact, Gershow noted that the company’s founder believed in taking care of the community, and further, that the company’s focus was to work with employers and employees to design mutually beneficial paid benefits programs. Like many other companies, Combined Worksite Solutions gives employees paid time off to volunteer, and follows that up with giving to various organizations. The example Gershow featured in her presentation, however, was a recent sales contest. For account executives and benefits specialists who achieved their sales goals over a specific period of time, the company donated a certain amount to Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home-away-from-home to the parents and families of children who are hospitalized with serious illnesses. This incredible idea touched both the sales professionals’ hearts as well as their sense of competition.

Jerry Metzker (, co-chair of the NonProfit Roundtable and Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners (, then shared the unique relationship that the youth services program has with both Bayer HealthCare ( and the City of Berkeley. Biotech Partners trains and prepares youth from high school through community college certification for work in the biotech/bioscience/health fields. In 1993, Biotech Partners was founded by Bayer and the City of Berkeley when the company wanted to expand its manufacturing and corporate facility in West Berkeley. As part of the Development Agreement, Bayer agreed to a 30-year relationship with Biotech Partners. This unique relationship includes several components: annual funding, paid summer internships and community college positions for students in the program, donations of lab equipment and supplies, hosting a career awareness conference for Biotech Partners’ high school students (and other students in the area), providing office space (including technology and phone), and access to meeting rooms and auditorium.

As the Biotech Partners/Bayer relationship is innovative, unique and expansive, it also provides fodder for other private/public partnerships.

Other partnerships and opportunities shared by attendees included “Jeans Day,” a practice of corporations for employees to participate in donating by contributing $5 when they wear jeans on casual Fridays. Several restaurants in Oakland also invite organizations to host a “Celebrity Bartender.” The guest bartender helps mix and serve drinks, and all the tips go to her/his organization. For both the organization and the restaurant, this means being introduced to an assortment of new customers.

The afternoon meeting concluded with a brief discussion of the benefits that companies or businesses can reap from having relationships with nonprofits. In addition to promotional and outreach opportunities, the benefits include feeling good (scientific studies show that a happy workforce and company is a more productive and profitable one), developing leadership capabilities of staff, participating in training the workforce, civic engagement/crime reduction, and for some companies and even legal benefits.

As the NonProfit Roundtable continues this ongoing conversation, more positives for all, including the community will come to light.


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The next Oakland Chamber NonProfit Roundtable meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 15,2014, from 2:30-4:30pm in the Chamber Boardroom. Please join us for a conversation and networking.
Co-Chair Âna-Marie Jones, Executive Director of CARD (
Co-Chair Jerry Metzker, Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners (

Chamber Liaison Nikki Mendez, Membership Director (

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