By Ashley Alt

When people hear the word business, they think of making money. When people hear the word charity, they think of donating money. Looking well beyond the typical business-charity partnership, one award-winning organization came up with the idea to spur friendly competition over giving through a year-long employee challenge. From supporting college scholarship programs to funding homeless shelters, this new way of thinking could be the next wave of business-sponsorship improvement.

While companies such as Comcast are able to create programs like Internet Essentials that use their services to benefit less fortunate, the majority of local business – understandably – do not boast the same capabilities. While “one and done” volunteer events are exciting and moving for everyone involved, people are looking for something more. Companies now need something that they can continually look forward to and know their service is making a difference. Chicagoans are notorious for finding initiatives that drive social change as well as benefit and impact the city. This organization has laid the foundation for just that.

Founders Craig and Terri Foster launched the Chicago Charity Challenge in 2014 as a nonprofit competition for local businesses to out-donate each other in money and volunteer time; the reward being a year-end bonus to put toward the charity of their choosing. The progressive movement is Chicago’s only employee-powered, philanthropic competition teaming businesses with charities to further a culture of generosity and compassion.

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As Craig began looking for a better idea to advance local charities’ needs, he realized having corporations compete with the charities of their choice was a great way to promote giving. From the time the organization was founded up until now, corporate teams have contributed over $30 million and 100,000 hours of service to address issues of hunger, homelessness, violence, disability and more.

The benefits from the year-long competitions far exceeded monetary goals, as they fostered employee-philanthropists relationships of giving, caring, and trust, uplifting local nonprofits in ways they hadn’t experienced before.

The businesses, including Chicago Fire, The Paul Hastings Law Firm and Harley-Davidson Financial Services weren’t just collecting money and giving it away. In an effort to motivate and inspire other Chicago-area businesses and their employees, they created their own charitable programs specific to their causes, coming up with original thinking on how they could uniquely impact charities.

Forbes success factors writer Geri Stengel explains that for-profit companies have long recognized the value of collaborations, and now more nonprofits are looking for the same benefits. Even if a nonprofit isn’t in financial trouble, the company’s board and management should be alert to opportunities that will improve efficiency and sustainability.

“It’s best to do this before your nonprofit reaches crisis mode,” Stengel noted.

“The end result of collaborative partnerships is that both organizations are stronger,” she continued. “Their alliance effectively secures a sustainable future for both organizations.”

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As the CCC looks to the future, it is their desire that the partnerships they inspired live on.

This collaboration of charity and business as uniting for the long haul – rather than partnering for a single night event – could propel ideas never thought of before. What would the future of business look like if working professionals joined forces with charitable organizations with a forever-help mentality instead of a quick monetary fix on both ends?