Sunny Schiller (right) helps with a fundraiser for a non-profit group at Save-On Foods last year. (Contributed)

On Community: Building bridges between business and non-profit sector

‘Let’s shake up the old way of doing business.’

What can businesses and non-profit organizations teach each other?

It sometimes seems that these two sectors have little in common, but it’s worth considering what we could achieve if we supported non-profit and for-profit organizations in working together.

Looking to start the new year off with some new ideas, we invited Angie McLeod, with HIP Strategic Consulting, to make a presentation at the January Community Network meeting. Angie has worked in the community for many years in both the non-profit sector and as an entrepreneur and was invited to share her knowledge with the Community Network.

The Community Network represents over 80 local social service agencies and organizations, including Fraser Health, School District No. 42, the Family Education and Support Centre, Coast Mental Health, the Maple Ridge library, the Salvation Army and so many more.

All of these groups work to provide services and programs to the public at low or no cost.

Angie encouraged us to consider the question: “What if profit was embraced by the non-profit sector?”

For many in the non-profit sector, generating a profit is viewed in a negative light. We want to support our members to evolve this thinking by considering how profits earned can support the social services that Community Network members provide.

Community Network members provide a wide range of services, but these organization often face similar challenges: trying to do more with less, working off the side of the desk, applying for limited grant funds.

Funding often comes with restrictions that are difficult to manage in the real world. If a funding agreement specifies that only 20 per cent of the funding amount can go towards accommodation costs, can a commercial office space be found at that rate? Do you invest time and resources in getting a program up and running when there is no guarantee of ongoing funding?

What does a mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and non-profit organizations look like? Google offers non-profit organizations $10,000 to use towards improving Google search results through the Google Ad Grants program. USA non-profit Science Buddies is an online science and technology resource website for students and teachers. Visits to the Science Buddies website have doubled over the three years they have participated in the Google Ad Grants program.

Locally, the Ridge Meadows Hospice Society provides free end-of-life support and grief support to the community. The society operates the Ridge Meadows Hospice Society Thrift Store on 224th Street and uses revenue generated from the store to provide hospice support services.

Angie encouraged us to embrace both the differences and similarities between the non-profit and for-profit sectors.

Organizations in both sectors manage human resources, do financial planning and reporting, and promote the services or products they produce. The non-profit sector has learned how to collaborate and work cooperatively to achieve goals.

Are there lessons there that can be shared with the business community? Businesses know how to generate revenue – can some of those experiences be reproduced in the non-profit sector? How can we bring together for-profit and non-profit organizations to learn from each other?

Let’s shake up the old way of doing business, by working to bridge the gap between non-profit and for-profit enterprises. Often non-profits reach out to the business community when there is a need for funds or donations. What can non-profits give back? What if non-profits looking to start a new program invited businesses into the process right at the beginning, to allow businesses to share their ideas about what the community needs?

Our community is fortunate to have many businesses that provide support to non-profit organizations on a regular basis. For other businesses, it may not be clear how they can get involved. Let’s talk about it.

• The Community Network meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 1-3 p.m. in the Fraser Room at the Maple Ridge library. We invite any local business owners or employees to come out to a meeting to see what the Network is all about.

Sunny Schiller is coordinator of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie Community Network.

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