Business collaboration for maximum impact and ease

Business leaders often ask us for advice on how to unearth the most urgent local needs, find effective agency experts and collaborate with other businesses to make a broader impact.

We’re lucky to have a Georgia-grown business collaboration model to learn from, one written up by academics and even mentioned in the Harvard Business Review for its long term effectiveness.  

Over 60 Georgia companies collaborate in the Get Comfortable campaign instigated by Creature Comforts Brewing in Athens and DeKalb County.  In short: they collectively identify local issues, resource gaps and optimal partners, then invite businesses and individuals to join in collaborative funding. With the mission to “Channel the generosity of many toward the greatest local needs,” the campaign’s fundraising will crest $2 million in total giving later this year.

There’s clearly much to learn from Creature Comforts’ VP of Strategic Impact Matt Stevens and Community Manager Ally Hellenga.   

goBeyondProfit hosted Matt and Ally in on-line events this week. We learned how collaborations work well and how businesses can smartly engage.

Collaboration Benefits: Simplicity, Camaraderie and Confidence

Three main benefits to joining into a collaborative effort like Get Comfortable:

  • Simplicity. The needs assessment research, agency selection and data collection is centrally done for you.
  • Camaradrie. You gain energy and brand halo by being part of a broad coalition of businesses.
  • Confidence. Businesses know their generosity is aimed at the most urgent local needs.

Solo company giving can be less impactful because of the individual nature. Businesses’ siloed resources might go to duplicative efforts thereby leaving other key needs unmet. 

Citing a range of contemporary books, like Georgia’s Toxic Charity, highlighting how corporate “help” can inadvertantly be ineffective or cause unintended damage, the presentation pointed to the imperative of aligning around solid data and clear long-term solution plans. 

“Always, always, always” be sure you understand what the community really needs, Matt Stevens advises. While that’s doable by tapping available third-party data, it does require time and effort.

Serving made simple

Matt points to two tenets that make Get Comfortable distinctive: rigorous agency selection and alignment with resources, all driven by data and hyper-local insights.  

The campaign leans on deep data – from local government and community oversight sources — about local needs, resource gaps, and solution plans. Agencies are invited to participate in an RFP process, and selection is done by an Advisory Council that is deeply ingrained in that community.

“It’s a crowdsourced effort to corporate philanthropy, not DIY,” Matt points out. 

All types of generosity counts

Companies simply writing a check gain benefit from knowing their dollars are well-vetted and overseen for results. Their contribution is recognized in the energetic collective. These are wins for everyone.

Ally pointed out how other participants go deeper to attract, reward and bond with their employees, current customers and potential new customers with their fundraising efforts.

Marketing events engage current and new customers in shared passion.

  • Creature Comforts invites people to celebrate their birthday at their Taproom and contributes their age in dollars to the cause. 
  • Many participating companies offer % donations, matching dollars and events that benefit the cause.  These drive traffic and help them deepen customer bonds over the shared purpose.

Time and talent contributions let companies demonstrate expertise without out-of-pocket costs. 

  • GiANT Leadership Consulting offers leadership training for the campaign staff, partners and Advisory Panel. 
  • Shakti Power Yoga hosts pop-up classes and workshops, at the brewery and online, that contribute 100% of proceeds. It’s a marketing win in exposure to each business’ traffic flow and new customer recruits, and everyone feels good about contributing to the campaign. 

For more ideas, check out participants’ one-line description of how they engage.

Balancing effectiveness with meaningfulness.

Matt makes the case that to have true impact, companies must choose efforts that balance positive community impact with meaningful resonance among their employees, customers and community members. 

The important thing to answer for yourself, he emphasizes, is “How is your company uniquely positioned to serve others?” 

Cheers to finding clear-eyed answers to these important questions.