Collaborating to Improve the Community.
~Business as Usual for Arizona Nonprofits!
Collaboration, cooperation, partnering – these traits go hand in hand with the nonprofit sector. According to Philanthropy News Digest, nonprofit collaborations are at an all-time high with 91 percent of nonprofits engaging in some form of partnership. Collaboration occurs on many levels and for a wide range of reasons. Some arrangements are formal with written agreements while others are more casual or even spontaneous. By definition, collaboration means “working together to produce or create something,” and often this relates to shared goals. Through the years, Beacon Group has participated in many types of cooperative activities with other nonprofits, including one of the most successful collaborations – the merger in 2003 between Beacon Foundation and Tetra Corporation. Today, as the largest employer of people with disabilities in Southern Arizona, Beacon Group pursues our mission in cooperation with many nonprofits in the communities we serve.
Often organizations serving people with disabilities enter into strategic arrangements for joint programming or sub-contracting to better achieve collective goals related to employment. For instance, Beacon will occasionally hire other non-profits as subcontractors when it makes sense. We have worked with JP Industries who specializes in Military Base janitorial services and The Centers for Habilitation (TCH) to focus on specific tasks on a complex contract, allowing us to concentrate on different requirements. These types of arrangements allow workload sharing, give us strength in areas of expertise when needed and often speed up the contracting process. Beacon has been a subcontractor in instances within the AbilityOne Program, where one nonprofit holds the prime contractor over a large geographical area, and subs out the work to nonprofits in each area. This is the case for our mailroom services at the Internal Revenue Service and some janitorial projects.
Beacon Secure also collaborates with TCH to jointly provide shredding services through most of Arizona. We provide TCH with leads and customers in Phoenix and northern and western Arizona, and they provide us with customers and leads in Tucson and southern Arizona.
Another example of collaborating with organizations that serve the same population is Beacon’s partnership with Marc Community Resources in Phoenix, whose mission includes helping people who have disabilities determine where and how they live, learn, work and play. Leadership of both programs communicate continuously to make sure they are best serving the needs of people in the Phoenix area.
“We have a really good relationship,” says Nichole Walla, director of operations of Beacon in Phoenix. “We can bounce ideas off each other and problem solve together. We ask the question, what does Beacon offer that the Marc doesn’t and vice-versa?”
Walla recently attended Marc’s peer support graduation to provide information on current job openings at Beacon, and Beacon ended up hiring several graduates for positions within our custodial division. Conversely, Marc regularly directs people to Beacon’s Ticket to Work program where they receive supports like benefits counseling and job coaching.
“Beacon will come to our site and meet with individuals,” says Marc program director, Niki Eastin, “Marc provides employment skills, but TTW counseling helps educate them about safe steps to independence through employment progression.”
Not all nonprofit collaboration occurs with organizations who have similar missions. One of the most important partnerships we have with other nonprofits is as a service provider. Beacon provides business solutions to a large number of nonprofits and is grateful that we can help them achieve their unique mission while enhancing our own.
For the last eight years, Beacon Group has assembled bags for Bag It, one of the country’s leading resource centers for cancer recovery that provides resources, tools, and services for patients, caregivers and advocates. The resource bags that Beacon puts together include a wide variety of materials that need to be collated, inserted and packaged in a specific way. Beacon assembles over 8,000 bags per year, and that number is expected to grow as Bag It expands distribution across the country.
Teamwork was a big part of the process, especially when major changes for Bag It’s organization required production adjustments for a new bag design. Flexibility and communication strengths from both sides contribute to the success of the arrangement. Bag It’s executive director, Mindy Griffith, explains ”I like the idea that we are supporting individuals with disabilities of course. But your service is phenomenal! If we have questions, they are answered quickly. If there are problems, they are taken care of.”
Another nonprofit customer of our production services is the Environmental Education Exchange (E3). To date, Beacon has assembled over 22,000 kits for E3’s outreach education programs, including water conservation kits for middle school students as well as energy savings kits for both students and adults.
The scope of work has evolved over the years since the partnership began in 2013. As often happens with nonprofits, E3 was endeavoring to do everything themselves, including assembling their kits used in outreach presentations, in-house to save money. But as outreach presentations grew to 820 per year, they recognized that a better way to use their strengths would be to use Beacon’s strengths.
“When nonprofits collaborate, everyone benefits. Each has its own unique mission, and when we work together positive things happen for our communities,” says Adam Kingery, E3’s energy programs manager. “At E3, partnering with other nonprofits is a wonderful way to ensure that we meet our educational goals while supporting the greater Tucson community.”
Easterseals Blake Foundation and Beacon Group have a lot in common. Both organizations serve people with disabilities, and as Blake Foundation CEO, Emma Kammeyer puts it, “we’ve both been around forever.” Kammeyer says that Blake tries to work with nonprofits whenever possible, so choosing Beacon Secure as their document destruction provider made sense in many ways.
“When we started, of course, we were first searching for the best deal. But because Beacon is competitive price wise, this makes total sense,” explains Kammeyer. “As nonprofits, we face a lot of the same pressures. We can mitigate these together. The more we can all collaborate, in our nonprofit world, the stronger we are individually and as a group.”
Beacon handles recycling and shredding at Blake’s 45,000 square foot building, servicing approximately 50 secure bins, with regular monthly pickup. Megan Wills, Blake’s director of children and family services, says that when Beacon Secure team members are in the building to pick up the bins, “they are very professional. Our staff enjoys these friendly and positive interactions – we appreciate them.”
In addition to partnering for business solutions, Beacon also works with nonprofits in the community to directly impact our goals of employing individuals with disabilities in a way that is a win-win-win. Beacon lead program manager, Jessica Winchester, references the many individual hires, training program volunteer opportunities, cross-referrals, and the Disability Awareness training services, that we provide to organizations in Tucson and Phoenix.
One example of this type of relationship, Beacon Group and HabiStore have built a positive relationship in part from an employee at HabiStore who had received job training through the Beacon Group. Originally a volunteer, Ed Mauger’s, customer service skills, work ethic and outstanding professional attitude impressed the HabiStore team so much that when a cashier position opened up, based on his good resume and interview performance in a competitive process, he was offered a job and has been a valued employee for almost a year now.
Gordon Yarrington, chief retail officer at Habitat for Humanity Tucson elaborates on the success of the placement: “Ed is extremely reliable, will do any task requested of him, and embodies many characteristics that make for an outstanding longtime staff member. Beacon Group has continued to provide a Job Coach who helps with confidence and strengthening skills that need improvement. I wish I had this type of service for all employees!”
Through their cooperative relationship, Beacon Group also delivered a Disability Awareness Training for Habitat staff, continues to provide shredding service at Habitat’s administrative offices, and has discussed partnering on delivery services and selling recycled paint with HabiStore. It’s clear this collaboration will grow based on the culture of the partners. Yarrington says that Habitat’s mission is to make the world a more just and compassionate place, and a good place to start is by supporting other nonprofits. “Collaboration makes us all stronger – makes our communities safer, happier, healthier.”
“We love seeing how members of the community benefit when we all work together to support their stability and self-reliance,” Yarrington explains.
When nonprofits combine forces, they can accomplish great things. The best partnerships are synergistic relationships, allowing both sides to benefit in a way that will ultimately do more than either organization could achieve on their own. Whether it’s teaming up to boost efficiency, expanding capacity for our mission, problem solving, or supporting community wide goals, nonprofits in Arizona continue to work well together.
There are many other examples of Beacon engaging with nonprofits throughout the state and nation. We band together with 39 other local nonprofits in the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit Coalition to educate taxpayers about how to support the work in our community and get a tax credit. We join 80 member-organizations of Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities (AAPPD) to collectively support advancements in services for the disabilities community. The list of ways Beacon Group touches other nonprofits is extensive. And still, we believe there are more connections to be made. Are you one of them?
Learn more about ways to partner with Beacon here, or contact Beacon Group at 520-622-4874.