By Josh Jacobson

This month, Next Stage embarked on a new initiative – to “rewire social good, building a new bridge between the private sector and nonprofits that creates a win-win-win value proposition.”

Sorry, what?

It is a pretty bold declaration for us but one that requires a little context.

As strategists for social good, the team at Next Stage has been exploring the current conditions of the supportive community for nonprofits for nearly seven years. We’ve come to the conclusion that the future of nonprofits as the drivers of impact in our community is in peril. Big societal shifts are challenging the business models of these organizations. Trends toward digitization, generational approaches to philanthropy and changes to the tax code (to name just a few) are suggesting that a new path forward is needed. Badly.

In truth, we at Next Stage have known this for some time. We have been vocal advocates for new ways of doing things, but our mistake was in “preaching to the choir” – nonprofit leaders have been the primary audience for our messaging. Going forward, that is going to change.

We are repositioning our work, engaging in service delivery with private sector companies alongside the nonprofit organizations that have comprised our client base for years. We believe social good has a role to play inside companies throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region. Bottom-line business needs like employee retention, team development, cause marketing, diversity and inclusion, wellness and workforce development are all areas where nonprofits can be vendors of impact. In fact, we think nonprofits are uniquely capable of being the authentic partners businesses need to stay relevant and competitive.

The key to making this work? A significant mindset shift. Companies see nonprofits as “charities with their hands out,” and nonprofits see companies as “sponsors supporting their cause.” What Next Stage aims to knit together is a new framework for this exchange – one that serves the interests of both sides and ultimately leads to community impact that supports the entire ecosystem. That is the win-win-win value proposition.

We began to explore this topic with our friends Blair Primis from OrthoCarolina and John Searby from the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation last week as a part of What’s Next? – our twice-monthly Friday roundtable. You can catch up with the episode on demand. It is the first of many such conversations as we dedicate What’s Next? to this topic over the next six months.

My colleague Janet Ervin and I have also recently launched a new community study tentatively called The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Social Good Report, our community’s first in-depth examination of the nexus between business needs, employee perceptions and nonprofit capacity. Janet and I aim to interview 50+ business leaders, survey 1,000+ next generation workforce members, and build a network of 20+ nonprofit leaders in an exploration of what is possible when we shift mindsets and build new marketplaces. We have working theories but we’re eager to test these new ideas in practice. We aim to publish our findings in March 2021.

Intrigued? Join us on this journey. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, participate in our What’s Next? digital roundtables, follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), and let us know what you think about our new direction. We’re all ears.