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6 Ways to Keep Corporate Partners Engaged During COVID-19

Posted: 3/30/2021

Click here to read on Classy.

By KORRIN BISHOP

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the power of corporate partnerships with nonprofits front and center. Businesses are able to help nonprofits fill financial gaps when donations have waned, and nonprofits have helped businesses find ways to actively support their communities during the public health crisis. With 86% of consumers wanting to see brands serve as "safety nets" during COVID-19, both sides of these partnerships need to remain engaged.

After roughly a year of managing the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on business operations and daily life, nonprofits might be wondering how to continually keep their partnerships feeling meaningful and impactful. In this post, we'll cover six ways to keep your corporate partners engaged during uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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1. Offer Services to Your Corporate Partner's Employees

Cross-sector collaborations can increase employee engagement and retention rates by 5 to 7% and sales up to 7%. This can be particularly important during a time when morale may be low given new challenges employees are facing during the pandemic.

Your nonprofit may have previously organized in-person group volunteering events for your corporate partner's employees, such as meal prep for your emergency shelter residents or reading books to children in your after school program. You can continue to offer the option for employees to be of service by shifting to virtual volunteer opportunities.

These could include helping run your social media pages, assisting with data entry, or facilitating research projects. You could also organize opportunities for employees to connect with your nonprofit's beneficiaries over video conferencing software and do activities together, such as reading to children in your program virtually.

Additionally, if your nonprofit typically provides mental health services, child enrichment courses, or other activities that could benefit stressed parents or employees, you could organize a webinar or other services to help your corporate partner's team, too. This demonstrates a shared commitment to your partnership where both sides are available to support one another through hard times.

2. Highlight What You're Doing to Help During This Crisis

If your nonprofit has pivoted its services to address the COVID-19 crisis, highlight that work to your corporate partner. Let your corporate partner see how you're adapting to the new environment, and offer ways they can help with that, too.

Little Kids Rock is a nonprofit dedicated to restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in schools. When COVID-19 shifted the majority of schools to an online learning environment, the nonprofit partnered with JBL, a company that specializes in audio equipment. Together, Little Kids Rock and JBL distributed free headphones to kids in schools across eight cities. This helped the nonprofit continue its mission within a new virtual learning environment while elevating JBL's brand as a supporter of music education.

3. Elevate Your Compassionate and Empathetic Branding

COVID-19 has shifted marketing toward a more empathetic tone, which is likely here to stay. Demonstrate to your corporate partner how you can assist them with their branding through your collaboration.

Help your corporate partner create and share social media posts that highlight the impact they're making possible for your nonprofit during the pandemic. Consider incorporating each other's logos on your home pages. You may also want to create a simple video message highlighting your partnership.

Take time to have the marketing leads from your nonprofit and corporate partner virtually meet to share tips and tricks for compassionate, empathetic messaging.

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4. Take Your Fundraising Events Online

You may have previously collaborated with your corporate partner on a major in-person fundraising event, such as a gala dinner or fun run. The need for social distancing doesn't mean you have to cancel your annual event. Instead, work with your corporate partners to move your fundraising events online.

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Consider using livestream technology to run your event. This has the potential to increase overall engagement and attendance to your event and potentially tap into a younger audience.

You could also consider using social media to promote a hashtag fundraising challenge. During COVID-19, Panera Bread partnered with Feeding America for the #SeeAPlateFillAPlate Challenge. Panera Bread encouraged its followers to donate three dollars to Feeding America and then share a selfie with a decorated plate on Instagram, tagging five friends to give as well. Through the effort, Panera Bread committed to providing up to 500,000 meals to food banks across the country during the COVID-19 crisis.

Another good option for fundraising opportunities with your corporate partner is to encourage matching gifts. Your corporate partner can commit to matching donations made by its employees. Classy's integration with Double the Donation makes this process easy. Once employees match a donation, the integration captures their employment information so you can follow up for matching gifts.

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5. Give Cash Donations an In-Kind Feeling

Oftentimes, corporate partners will assist nonprofits with fundraising drives for material goods, such as running a canned food drive with their employees. While those events may not be feasible or safe right now, there are ways you can adjust your messaging to give cash donations the same feeling as giving an in-kind item.

Due to COVID-19, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley hasn't been able to collect in-kind food donations from supporters. Through a crowdfunding campaign, they used creative impact blocks to let supporters choose which food item they wanted to donate. For example, the $25 donation option has a fun illustration of cans of tuna along with text letting the supporter know that their donation will add 54 cans of tuna to their pantry.

Consider how you can leverage your donation buttons and messaging to convey the spirit of an in-kind donation drive and remind supporters that one day you'll be able to gather again for the annual event.

6. Maintain Regular Communication

Overall, a key component to keeping your corporate partners engaged during COVID-19 is to maintain regular communication. Even if some aspects of your partnership need to pause during this time given budget constraints or other priorities, maintain your communication channels to keep the relationship strong and on your partner's radar for whenever they're ready and able to re-engage at a greater level.

Send check-in emails to connect on a human level and simply see how they're doing. Tag them on social media to highlight and reminisce on past events on which you've partnered. Tell them what activities you're doing to address COVID-19, along with updates on your progress.

Remember that, while this might be a challenging time, it isn't a time to lose touch with your corporate partners.

Work Together to Keep Your Corporate Partnerships Strong During COVID-19

Many aspects of both corporate and nonprofit operations have had to shift as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintain engagement with your corporate partners by finding creative ways to collaborate and continuing to foster open communication.

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