Building Partnerships with Communities: Green Shield Canada shares best practices for a collaborative approach

If you’re a community foundation, chances are you’ve heard of Green Shield Canada (GSC). In 2018, in honour of their 60th anniversary, Canada’s fourth-largest health and dental benefits provider donated $6 million to six different communities (Halifax, Hamilton, Windsor Essex, Calgary, Vancouver/Victoria, and Sault Ste. Marie) in their “Six 4 Six” initiative for priority projects. In April 2020 in response to COVID-19, GSC further donated $500,000 to community foundation relief funds across the country. And in December 2020, GSC made a further investment of $4 million to six additional community foundations (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, and Haida Gwaii). With this investment, GSC now works with 12 community foundations across the country. 

What you may not know is that GSC was founded with a social intention. Starting in 1957 by a pharmacist in Windsor to find a solution for people unable to pay for their prescriptions, the organization remains a registered non profit and social enterprise. According to CEO Zahid Salman, “The story of how our business was created to fill a social need is still very much front of mind. It’s the biggest link between our past, present and future” (as reported in the Financial Post, 2020). 

It is this strong focus on social impact and a desire for greater impact that led GSC to a partnership with community foundations. In 2020, it created a “Toolkit for Corporate and Community Foundation Partnerships” to share its knowledge with other community foundations on how to work in partnership with business. Any community foundation interested in forming partnerships with businesses can benefit from the simple five steps outlined in the toolkit. 

1. Decide what “corporate partnership” means for you 

2. Initiate corporate relationships

3. Build your base

4. Work together

5. Take it to the next level

GSC feels that alongside community foundations, it is building a new and powerful model of how businesses can work with community foundations to make significant, long-term positive impact in communities. By sharing the toolkit, it hopes that all community foundations can build their own valuable partnerships with businesses coast to coast to coast.