20/03/2007 - 22:00

Not for profit: Getting in tune with SMEs

20/03/2007 - 22:00


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Small businesses are not often targeted by not-for-profit organisations seeking corporate partnerships, yet the smaller end of town has much to offer, according to many in the NFP sector.

Not for profit: Getting in tune with SMEs

Small businesses are not often targeted by not-for-profit organisations seeking corporate partnerships, yet the smaller end of town has much to offer, according to many in the NFP sector.


Western Australian Council of Social Services executive director Lisa Baker says small-to-medium enterprises are often unsure of how to establish a partnership, although they typically have a different approach to relationship building than larger organisations.


“For SMEs, it’s more about capacity building in their own communities, not to actually come and work at not for profits, like the big organisations do,” she said.


Ms Baker said a lack of awareness of partnership opportunities was related to limited resources.


“The big organisations tend to have community relations divisions and marketing divisions, whose job is to look at the organisation’s positioning within society,” she said.


“SMEs often don’t have the time or resources. They need some support and guidance in identifying good organisations, which are delivering things that match their business values.”


The issue of connecting with small business has been explored in a recent research paper into corporate partnerships, compiled by WACOSS and the WA Community Foundation.


WA Community Foundation chief executive officer Tonia Swetman said many SMEs were overlooked by not for profits, in favour of larger organisations.


“They usually think of the more prominent businesses, the ones who have been very proactive and have the resources to market themselves,” she said.


“Many SMEs don’t have the resources to have a prominent face, but they still want to deliver for their employees, and they want a culture of being community contributors.”


For those small businesses involved in the community, a personal interest in the work of the not for profit is often a motivating factor.


Ross Gerring, managing director of website solutions company Itomic, said his decision to support community television station Access 31’s film website, flicktease, was about an interest in film.


“I am a movie fan, and we thought it sounded like a good idea,” he said. “It came at a time when we were looking to get our name out and about more, so it was a good opportunity to do that – the wider you can throw your net, the better.”


Since 2003, Itomic has provided free web hosting services for flicktease, including web support and update services.


Mr Gerring said there was an element of wanting to participate in the community, in the manner of larger corporate organisations.


“We’ve got some referrals from it, although it’s not overly our target market, but another way of getting our name out there. They also throw us freebie movie tickets,” he said.


Itomic also has an inbound link on flicktease.com leading to its website, meaning the company is ranked more highly in internet search engines.  


For Yacht Grot owner Trevor Richards, a personal interest in classical music inspired the partnership between his business and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.


Mr Richards said his Fremantle-based yachting company began its partnership as a general keynote sponsor of WASO, and now sponsored the principal second violinist’s chair for the orchestra.


“It’s paid off for both of us. It’s a very different group of people than we would normally mix with,” he said. “I suppose it also says to the community that you don’t have to be from the big end of the terrace to be involved.”


Australia Business Arts Foundation WA manager Henry Boston said it was important for arts organisations to think laterally about the assets offered by small businesses such as expertise, pro bono work and storage space.


“With small to medium businesses, unless you’ve got passionate people, the money is tighter, but what they do have is in-kind support,” he said.



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