Have a Corporate Cause? 3 Strategies for Teaming Up With Teachers

By Bernadette Grey

Fall is back-to-school season not just for students, but for all of America. Between students, parents and employees, more than half the nation has regular contact with a school. No other institution comes close.

If brands built relationships with all of America’s 7 million educators, they’d also reach the nation’s 54.5 million students and 90 million parents. That’s why companies are increasingly partnering with teachers to raise awareness of their corporate causes. With 70 percent of Americans saying that grade school teachers have “high” or “very high” ethical standards, brands know that teachers make ideal philanthropic partners.

Take H&R Block. Through its H&R Block Budget Challenge, a free online money management game, the consumer tax services provider helps high school students learn financial literacy. In a fun, low-pressure way, it teaches them the basics of paying bills and taxes, managing expenses, saving money, and planning for retirement. Of the teachers who have incorporated the challenge into their curriculum, more than 96 percent appreciate the “learn by doing” approach.

Companies that partner with teachers do more than build relationships with valuable consumers. They give students a lesson in humanity, take weight off teachers’ shoulders, and expand awareness of their chosen cause.

Where teachers want help

Ready to team up with teachers? Educators need help in three primary ways:

1. Creating immersive in-class experiences

Everyone loves a field trip. But with school budgets stretched thin, companies are getting creative to bring out-of-class experiences into the classroom.

The Ford Motor Company Fund, for example, recently partnered with teachers to host its Driving Skills for Life virtual assembly. Although Ford has been teaching teenage driver safety courses around the country for 13 years, it wanted to reach more students. The virtual event brought driver’s education to more than 2,500 students, and thousands more will watch the taped event.

Whatever the cause, use technology to take it straight to students. From experiencing World War I in the trenches to reliving the Apollo moon landing, tools like classroom video, live chats, and virtual reality can make lessons come alive for students.

2. Developing good citizens

One thing today’s corporations and nonprofits have in common with teachers is a desire to leave the world a better place. By opening students’ eyes to community needs, brands boost the impact of their philanthropic initiatives while building trust with teachers.

The Nature Conservancy is a leader in global conservation working to protect the lands and waters that significantly impact the planet’s health. By offering virtual field trips, lesson plans and resources for teachers on its Nature Works Everywhere site, backed by Lowe’s, The Nature Conservancy is molding tomorrow’s conservationists and growing the workforce’s STEM pipeline while making teachers’ lives easier.

The opportunities are as varied as the brands themselves. Institutional food service provider Sodexo was one of the first companies to support Share Our Strength’s Generation No Kid Hungry campaign. Generation No Kid Hungry engages youth audiences, especially on social media, with the goal of spreading hunger awareness to families, friends, and educators. By supporting the campaign, Sodexo is helping at-risk students keep their minds on their studies, not their stomachs.

3. Planting the seed of philanthropy

To succeed, nonprofit foundations rely on the generosity of their supporters. Today’s students, whether they know it or not, will soon be the ones carrying the torch for some of America’s most impactful charities.

Organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are already hard at work wooing the next generation. Two of the hospital’s most well-known events — Math-A-Thon and Trike-A-Thon — engage students and teach life skills, of course, but they also leave positive memories of philanthropy behind.

Get a Smart Start

Teachers care about their students first and foremost. Any business or nonprofit initiative aimed at them won’t find a foothold unless it can bring fresh, innovative, and helpful lessons into the classroom.

Before launching a campaign, be sure to understand teachers’ unique needs. With informative content about teachers’ challenges and motivations, sites like We Are Teachers and School Leaders Now are perfect places to start.

Together, teachers, students, and parents can change the world. They’ve got the numbers and the drive — now all they need is the cause.

Bernadette Grey is the chief marketing strategist at MDR, the nation’s leading education marketing group. Prior to joining MDR, Bernadette was an editorial director at Scholastic. A New York City native and the mother of two software engineers, Bernadette spends her spare time in the mountains of Vermont, where she owns a home.

Image credit: Flickr / Mundial Perspectives

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