Good businesses always want to support and uplift their communities. One way to accomplish that is to work with local nonprofits charged with addressing community needs.
Meanwhile, when business professional join boards of trustees or directors and assist in volunteer projects, nonprofits gain expertise and leadership they otherwise wouldn’t have enjoyed.
Enter Business Volunteers Unlimited, which for 26 years has connected business-nonprofit connections in Greater Cleveland. It matches business professionals with nonprofit boards, arranges consulting sessions for nonprofits with experts in various industries and identifies volunteer opportunities.
On Oct. 29, BVU will present a Nonprofit Leadership Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland downtown. Business pros in technology, human resources, finance, communications and management will show leaders how to run their organizations more efficiently.
Greater Cleveland companies represented at the summit will include Falls Communications; Meritech Inc.; Ratliff & Taylor; Oswald Cos., Benesch, Friedlander; Coplan & Aronoff LLP; and Big River. The keynote speaker is Natalie Leek-Nelson, president and CEO of Providence House. She will discuss how her organization not only survived an economic downturn but completed a $3 million fundraising campaign to expand its crisis nursery in 2012.
BVU is encouraging nonprofit professionals of all experience levels to attend.
“It can be difficult to keep up with trends and best practices,” says Brian Broadbent, president and CEO of BVU. “For nonprofits, whose work impacts our local communities and who often operate on shoestring budgets, the challenge can be even greater.
“The goal of the summit is to provide education to improve outcomes for nonprofits and the community,” Broadbent says.
That’s something BVU has done since it was founded. Throughout the years, BVU has matched 3,300 business professionals to various nonprofit boards. About the same number of nonprofits have received training from various businesses, and more than 400 businesses have volunteered through BVU.
Good is as good does
BVU was formed in 1993 by five of the largest companies in Cleveland at the time — Eaton Corp., Jones Day, KeyBank, BP and the former TRW Inc.
“The businesses wanted to play a bigger role in strengthening the region’s nonprofit community and had a fast-growing roster of professionals who were ready and willing to give back,” says Melanie Meyer, managing director of marketing and technology at BVU.
Community involvement is important for businesses, Meyer says, because it helps workers learn teamwork and develop leadership skills.
“Doing good is good business,” Meyer says. “A company’s brand is strengthened by its involvement in the community — not only among consumers, clients and business partners but among employees and recruitment prospects.”
The problem was that businesses didn’t know an efficient way to connect with nonprofits or how to choose the right ones for individual employees. That’s where BVU would come in.
With financial assistance from the Cleveland and George Gund foundations, BVU’s original staffers conducted national research to identify best practices when it came to corporate involvement with nonprofits. They also interviewed 128 local businesses and community leaders to determine how BVU could be most effective.
Using that data, BVU came up with its three-prong approach, the first of which was its Board Matching Program. BVU matches business professionals to nonprofit boards and trains them to be board members.
Secondly, BVU finds local industry experts in technology, finance, marketing, law and real estate to help nonprofits with specific projects.
Finally, BVU finds half-day, full-day or periodic team volunteer projects for businesses searching for such opportunities. The work might involve, for example, clearing debris from bridle trails at nature preserves or serving meals in homes where women and children are facing crises. BVU was involved in nearly 200 of these projects last year alone.
In 1995, United Way of Greater Cleveland funded the establishment of the Volunteer Center as an online resource. The center helps nonprofits recruit volunteers and communicate their missions.
Today, Broadbent says BVU’s annual budget is $2.3 million. Of that amount, $800,000 comes from businesses, $700,000 comes from foundations and another $800,000 comes from fees, board contributions and other sources.
“The diverse revenue stream is one of the real strengths of our model,” Broadbent says.
BVU annually performs 400 needs assessments for nonprofits, serves 900 nonprofits and engages with 120 businesses, Broadbent adds. Every year BVU itself does about 100 consultations with nonprofit boards, advising them on functions like strategic and leadership planning and executive transition.
Day of service
Hyland Software, which always makes a local best-place-to-work list, has participated in BVU’s board matching and day-of-service programs since 2008.
For its day of service, Hyland will typically send more than 500 workers. Its projects have included mock job interviews at Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a workforce development organization serving young people and gardening for the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s Green Corps, an agricultural work-study program for high schoolers.
“The impact goes beyond the day of service in that many Hyland employees end up going back to volunteer on their own time or have even taken on leadership roles at the nonprofits they served at,” Meyer says.
In May, Sherwin-Williams organized an event where more than 30 of its human resources experts advised 20 nonprofits regarding compensation, employee handbook review, talent and performance management and general best HR practices.
Nonprofits taking part included Girl Scouts of North East Ohio; Cuyahoga Valley Arts Center; Lake Erie Nature & Science Center; Cleveland Central Catholic High School; the Summit County Historical Society of Akron; Child and Family Advocates of Cuyahoga County; and Esperanza Inc.
The BVU summit in October will be another chance for nonprofits to learn about HR topics, including succession planning, which is becoming more relevant as baby-boomers retire.
“Only 27 percent of nonprofits nationally have written succession plans for their leaders,” Meyer says. “A best practice that BVU coaches is to have succession prepared both in case of a need for interim leadership or long-term leadership.”
Nonprofits will also gain knowledge in cybersecurity, ever-changing tax laws and building support through communications at the October summit.
For more information on the summit, visit bvunonprofitsummit.org or call 216-736-7711.