May 29, 2017
 
Building Firm Looks for Aligned Interest when Linking with Nonprofits

Kimberly Steimle Vaughan: Nonprofits can bring a lot of value
December 29, 2014 — When looking to partner with a private business, nonprofits first and foremost need to articulate the value they will bring to the prospective partner, according to the chief marketing officer of Suffolk Construction, which has forged a number of enduring relationships with Massachusetts nonprofits.

“There are a thousand ways in which a corporation can add value to a nonprofit, but sometimes a mistake a nonprofit makes is to assume there isn’t much value they can bring to us,” said Kimberly Steimle Vaughan. “We believe they can bring a lot, but they start by articulating the value they can add to the company.”

Ultimately, long-term relationships between nonprofits and corporations result from an alignment of missions, she said.

In the case of Suffolk, nonprofits seeking to team with the company need to know that its philanthropy and nonprofit involvement focus on youth and education, and to a lesser extent on healthcare.

The company’s Red & Blue Foundation each year donates $5 million to $7 million to support education, healthcare, life sciences, and community life.

Perhaps most notably, Suffolk has created a nonprofit, originally called The Boston Scholar Athlete Program, but since renamed to Scholar Athletes as it expands beyond Boston. (This year it established a program in Springfield.) The goal is improve academic achievement through athletics. Today, with a staff of 30 working with dozens of high schools, the nonprofit has an annual operating budget of $2.5 million and, in addition to Suffolk, is supported by major partners and donors.

Suffolk has also developed key relationships that build on its core construction expertise. For example:
  • The company donated its fee, and encouraged its subcontractors to discount their fees, on a $ 9 million renovation project for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB), which it has supported since 2008.

  • Having contributed since 2007 at the leadership gift level to Camp Harbor View, an initiative of the Camp Harbor View Foundation, which gives children in Boston’s at-risk neighborhoods an opportunity to participate in a summer camp program, Suffolk also donated a majority of its labor and materials to construct a new summer camp – and encouraged its partners to donate their services The new 17,300 square-foot facility comprises a main building, beach house, pavilion, two basketball courts, two tennis courts, a swimming pool, and three soccer fields.
While Vaughan explained that ”true partnerships with nonprofits align with our mission,” those partnerships are about more than the company donating funds and, occasionally, construction services. They’re also about enhancing the impact of nonprofits.

Since community involvement is a core value of Suffolk, it looks more favorably on opportunities for nonprofit engagement that provide an opportunity for its employees to participate. Currently, its 1,200 employees (about half of whom are located in Massachusetts) donate more than 10,000 hours a year, on company time as well as their own, to a number of nonprofits.

Noting that “we expect our internal leaders to become engaged in civic community,” Vaughan said Suffolk’s involvement with BGCB led to her joining the Club’s marketing committee of Club and eventually becoming a board member.

Suffolk also looks for its nonprofit partners to actively engage with other nonprofits.

“With so many nonprofits, there is much [mission] crossover,” Vaughan said. “What’s important to us is nonprofits trying to help each other.”

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