Working together: LifeCare Alliance marries the needs of for-profits with its own
LifeCare Alliance would not be able to serve its 15,000 active clients without support from the corporate community — companies big and small deliver Meals-on-Wheels, work in its dining centers, deliver pet care, assist with numerous volunteer opportunities, and purchase catering and wellness services.
President and CEO Charles Gehring says he always hears how much corporate associates enjoy working with LifeCare’s clients, which in turn makes them appreciate their employer. However, building relationships between for-profit and nonprofits needs to go both ways.
Smart Business spoke with Gehring about how corporate partnerships are critical to LifeCare and its clients, and vise versa.
SB: How do strong relationships with for-profit companies help nonprofits like LifeCare Alliance?
CG: An association with a well-known company lends the “seal of approval” to what the nonprofit does and is. This association is critical to how LifeCare and its services are viewed by the community. Companies employ people who can be volunteers. LifeCare has more than 90 companies who “Adopt-a-Route,” which means they allow employees to deliver Meals-on-Wheels on a daily basis. This saves the cost of a paid driver, about $12,000 per route, per year.
Companies also provide subject matter experts to assist with numerous projects. For example, our IT committee has only two board members. The rest are volunteers who are experts in information technology. They provide the knowledge we lack as a not-for-profit with a small staff. This is an area not-for-profits do not use enough.
Perhaps most importantly, the relationship must go both ways. We must provide a benefit to the for-profit partner. That might include employee recruitment and retention programs, like our Adopt-a-Route program, ways to assist their community without large financial commitments, programming for their employees, programs which address the concerns of their employees, co-marketing efforts and others.
SB: What challenges have you faced when building these relationships?
CG: Often, for-profits feel we only want to meet with them in order to ask for money. Actually, LifeCare generally wants to provide them with something. Money is nice, but for-profit companies can do many other things.
I view our company partners as guardian angels. A for-profit will watch over us closely because they know they are assisting our community. For example, we purchase sandwich buns and dinner rolls for our Meals-on-Wheels from White Castle, one of our best community partners. While we pay retail price, White Castle insures we get outstanding products and services, while knowing their products are being consumed by, and benefitting, those most in need.
SB: What have you learned about how to better create these relationships?
CG: Start slow, and determine what the for-profit company wants and needs. Often, not-for-profits only tell a company what they need.
Instead, take the time to listen and ask questions of potential for-profit partners. What are their priorities for their business and community, and where are their associates’ interests? In this way, we can better match what we do to their needs, and most likely provide them with a service or program of interest.
In 2014, we need to create a strong ‘win-win,’ not a one-sided relationship.
SB: How would you advise nonprofits to create long-term ties with corporate America? Or, on the flip side, how can for-profit companies create stronger links to worthy causes?
CG: The relationship has to go both ways. And, I cannot stress enough that not-for-profits must listen to the priorities of the for-profit. Many not-for-profits continue to only ask for-profit partners for money.
It is critical to develop other partnership opportunities. As another example, LifeCare operates L.A. Catering as a social entrepreneurship venture, which helps generate revenue to serve more clients. A company could buy catering from us if it were going to purchase catering for an event anyway. It provides a social and community aspect to the event, and I guarantee the associates appreciate that community care.
These types of partnerships between for-profits and not-for-profits develop deeply, and on multiple levels, with both gaining tremendous knowledge about each other. Much like a marriage, isn’t it? Also, like a marriage, we need to make our work together fun. •
How to reach: LifeCare Alliance, (614) 278-3130 or www.lifecarealliance.org
Learn more about LifeCare Alliance at:
Pillar Nonprofit board executive Finalist
immediate past chair
(614) 278-3130 | www.lifecarealliance.org
Robert Click’s caring spirit was apparent at a very young age. As a child, he would often ask his parents for money. When they asked him what he did with it, he would respond, “I gave it to someone who needed it.”
His kindness and compassion didn’t stop with monetary gifts. Whenever he saw or learned of someone in need, he would do whatever he could to help.
This philanthropic mindset didn’t stop as Click reached adulthood. Both Click’s father and mother were diagnosed with cancer, and because of his personal experiences and general giving nature, he became involved with the Columbus Cancer Clinic, a nonprofit agency that supports those affected by cancer and conducts cancer screens, joining the board in 1989.
When the organization merged with LifeCare Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides health and nutrition services to older adults and chronically ill or home-bound residents of Central Ohio, in 2005, he helped lead both organizations and eventually became a member of LifeCare Alliance’s board.
Today, seven years after the merger, both organizations are thriving. The Columbus Cancer Clinic is seeing more patients than ever and provides services to clients in 33 Ohio counties. LifeCare serves 15,000 clients who depend on life-saving services such as Meals on Wheels, visiting nurses and wellness centers.
In addition to his role as immediate past chair, Click freely shares his time and expertise as a member of LifeCare Alliance’s building, compensation, executive, marketing, pension and strategic planning committees. He is also a senior managing partner at CB Richard Ellis.