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Compassionate Collaboration
Corporate companies and nonprofit organizations are finding that partnerships with one another form a symbiotic relationship that also strengthens their connections with the community.

by Carly Murray

Local engagement is a valued attribute, which is especially true for the tight-knit community of South Jersey where both company recognition and consumer loyalty are oftentimes based on a personal kinship to its work, values and image. A legacy built upon both helping others and contributing to charitable causes endears an organization to the communities it enriches.

There are endless needs within local townships. Thankfully, there are also many nonprofits, opportunities and empathetic individuals striving to provide residents from all backgrounds with the quality of life they deserve.

Our neighbors are experiencing food insecurity and the work of the food bank continues. In order for us to continue that work, we need partners, whether it's corporations, people volunteering or giving us financial support. We are very committed to making sure that South Jersey residents who may be experiencing hunger or food insecurity can turn to the food bank when they are in need of good, healthy food.” says Lavinia Awosanya, MBA, CFRE, Chief Development Officer of The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ).

There are numerous ways that corporate entities can collaborate with nonprofits: FBSJ’s corporate partners, for example, contribute funding and food donations as well as event sponsorships and grant creation. Partnerships usually begin with a mutual interest in an area of altruistic work, and the united mission expands outreach efforts.

“Our values are pretty broad, it's just ‘help others as best as we can.’ One of the things that I love is the breadth of service that we have. What we look for is companies and people who are looking to help others, and we are able to develop a relationship that reflects the company's values. Some might be interested in helping single mothers, veterans, seniors, individuals coming back from being involved in the criminal justice system, or survivors of human trafficking. What we really look for is just that passion for helping.” says Alexis Degan, Vice President of Development of Communications for Volunteers of America Delaware Valley.

The decades-long legacies of organizations like FBSJ and Volunteers of America have earned admiration from corporations, nonprofits and residents because of their clear philanthropic intentions and demonstrated commitment to their principles.

“[FBSJ] has been around for 40 years coming up next year, and we've never deviated from our mission. We are fiscally responsible, we are very focused and dedicated to the community, and just that reputation of what we do and how we serve, people would like to be a part of that, and we have this great mission. If we can extend that and be that conduit for a nonprofit that is looking to make an impact, we are happy that they chose the food bank to make an impact in the community,” Awosanya explains.

With their shared goal of humanistic efforts, nonprofits also partner with each other. Many organizations focus on a niche, and others are more broad, but ultimately everyone looking to assist community members is motivated by the universal goal of making the world a better place.

“Today is the age of collaboration, and the spirit of ‘all ships rise with a rising tide’ is shared among many of our nonprofit partners. The needs in Camden are great and it would be difficult for a nonprofit to go at it alone. It's necessary to recognize, coordinate and engage with other nonprofits in order to maximize our impact,” says Brian Riggs, Executive Director of The Joseph Fund of Camden, which provides scholarships and tuition assistance to children and families in Camden.

“Whenever we approach a new nonprofit partnership, we strive to do so with a vision for how the work can benefit both organizations, leading to capacity-building, program development and deeper mission fulfillment,” adds Craig Getting, the development director of Appel Farm Arts & Music Center.  “Sometimes we skill-share with arts nonprofits who engage a different community or region, sometimes we collaborate with organizations outside the arts entirely but who share our focus on creating engaging programs for youth.”

In fact, Appel Farm has partnered with the Center for Family Services to amplify opportunities for youth arts education. Their missions go hand-in-hand, as the center is devoted to supporting both children and families with life-improvement initiatives.

“Businesses and nonprofits alike should all be thinking about their social purpose and values as an organization. Investment from corporations, small businesses and nonprofits expands important services and provides direct support to address urgent and ever-changing needs,” says Richard Stagliano, CEO of the Center for Family Services. “These partnerships bring in essential funding that have the power to help nonprofits pursue their and visions to the fullest. Though it requires time and resources to build out a well-rounded comprehensive philanthropy program, organizations of any size can accomplish this and create lasting change for their communities.”

Business ventures and charitable causes both rely on outreach. The digital age has prompted a social media presence to broaden the engagement that’s essential to an entity’s success. However, the organic approach of networking has proven to endure the test of time, as participating in community activities and events is an excellent avenue for organizations to invite diversification.

“In my opinion, the best way to maximize community outreach is to create compelling experiences … that activate organization ambassadors. Organization ambassadors are those individuals that are moved so deeply by your organization that they tell your story when you're not around,” Riggs notes.

Demonstrated missions or stories compel involvement, as well as foster a positively memorable reputation, which is why embracing the South Jersey community tends to inspire participation or volunteerism in those with similar interests. Displaying a clear purpose or goal that resonates with people often forges a path to recognition and support.

“Folks looking to volunteer seek us out. A lot of times, I have the benefit of a really engaged pool of companies and organizations who have a history with us or who are looking to build a history,” says Degan. “When we aren’t having to worry as much about outreach, we're able to think more about other things that we can do to supplement the services that our programs are providing.”

Developing and nurturing meaningful relationships is vital to the progression of any enterprise. Mark Morgan, who co-founded the Moorestown Theater Company, was also the Moorestown Business Association’s president for nine years. This provided him with a unique, far-ranging perspective as he got to know other business professionals while highlighting his nonprofit theater’s specialization.

“A community theater means you should be part of this community, very literally,” he affirms. “Through volunteer efforts on my part, I was just naturally meeting people, running meetings, hosting events, getting to know business leaders in town and other companies. In any way we could collaborate, we would, [such as] sing the national anthem at town council reorganization meetings.”

Cultivating exposure to and experiences within the arts is an essential part of any community. Particularly when an arts organization emphasizes youth participation—whether as a performer or as an audience member—it models society and provides an expanded worldview that many would otherwise never get to experience. A creative outlet can also be therapeutic to those facing adversity in everyday life, and can introduce participants to other like-minded arts enthusiasts, encouraging visibility and socialization.

“Appel Farm strives to co-create experiences that inspire people to unleash their inherent creativity, leading to self-discovery, personal growth, community-building and joy. … We believe artmaking is a healing practice, a community practice and a way of recognizing people for who they are. Our arts programs are student-centered, which means that the instruction and the creative process is driven by what the participants want to experience and build together,” says Getting.

He adds that Appel Farm strives to bring creative programming to businesses, such as their work with Inspira Health to build the frontline worker arts-based Resilience/Wellness Residency, which helps employees with “artmaking sessions designed to reduce stress, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and foster expression of personal narratives.”

An amalgamation of different people with different experiences and interests culminates in trailblazing  ideas. Collaboration is important because it results in novel perspectives that can propel a cause to new heights. Those outside-the-box ideas can lead to remarkable solutions and pioneer new methods of engagement.

“We found out about a national program at a conference called the Penguin Project, which is a theater program for children who are neurodiverse, those who have Down syndrome or autism, who are nonverbal or wheelchair [users] who maybe don't get to do their school shows,” says Morgan. “We've now done two shows the last two years from our national conference. The Penguin Project is in 25 states, but we're the only chapter in New Jersey.”

For individuals not attached to corporations or nonprofits who want to get involved, there are still plenty of ways to lend a hand. Involvement can range from raising awareness by speaking out, to physical donations or hands-on volunteer efforts.

“Showing up for an organization in your own backyard allows you to see the full scope of your support and feel even more connected. The more you can raise awareness and spread the word about the cause you’re involved with, the more you will inspire others to get involved and create change,” says Stagliano. “No matter the path you chose, your involvement will make a difference.”

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 6 (June 2024).

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