Check-Up Clinic: Corporate Partnerships

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Engage Corporate Partners and Build Strategic Partnerships

by Simki Dutta

There’s nothing more rewarding than building strategic partnerships based on mutual trust and win-win collaboration. The same holds true for nonprofits looking to engage corporate partners and develop long-lasting relationships.

As per Cone Communications’ “Social Impact Study,” 90% of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a cause, and 79% will donate to a charity supported by a trusted brand.

This only goes to prove that consumers are socially conscious and expect organizations to follow suit.

So, as a nonprofit looking for a corporate partner, a lot depends on how you tell your story, communicate your value proposition and establish connections.

Here are six ways to engage corporate partners and build strategic partnerships.

Identify Companies With Aligned Missions

There are lots of corporate businesses (with deep pockets) out there but the question is: Which ones are in line with your organization’s values?

Partnerships that are based on superficial factors rarely last long or have a positive impact. So adopt a targeted approach, and choose your partners wisely.

Start with making a list of 15 to 20 companies that share common goals and value systems. It helps to ask around internally and in your friend/family circle to see if there are any common connections who can introduce you.

You don’t want to get flak the way Susan Komen and KFC’s “Buckets for Cure” campaign did. Accused of being hypocritical, the alliance proved to be damaging for both parties.

Do Comprehensive Research

Before you approach your potential partners, you need to do comprehensive research on them. From understanding their business model and goals to digging deeper into their corporate social responsibility mandates and past initiatives — you have to be updated with it all.

A thorough well-rounded research will help you put forth your offer and demonstrate how your nonprofit can benefit them.

You should also identify the right point of contact in the respective organizations such as key decision-makers (in small and mid-sized companies) and the corporate communications team (in large companies).

Just the way you’re doing research on your potential partners, even they will do their due diligence and look you up. So make sure you have a strong nonprofit SEO strategy that aids discoverability and adds to your reputation.

Leverage Data and Stories to Create an Impact

Once you’ve secured a meeting with the company, it’s time to get working on your pitch presentation. This is where all your research will come handy.

The goal of this presentation needs to be to present them an offer they’d be interested in and tell them what’s in it for them.

Start with giving them an overview of your nonprofit — your background, the cause you support, the impact you’ve made, the programs you run, among others.

Companies thrive on data and if you want them to take you seriously, you must leverage data-driven storytelling. You must have done a lot of good work, but it all boils down to how you present it to potential partners when the time arises.

So use infographics, charts and other visual elements to present data and tell your story more effectively. Not only does this keep partners engaged, but it also adds to your credibility.

Go Beyond Sponsorship

Partnerships should not just be limited to funding and corporate sponsorships. What’s more, these challenging financial times make it increasingly difficult to seek financial support.

Well, the good news is that there are other ways to engage partners such as:

  • Launching a cause marketing campaign to create awareness, drive engagement and boost loyalty
  • Asking for in-kind donations in the form of products, services and supplies
  • Developing a skill-based volunteer program to leverage specialized professional skills for your nonprofit, such as leadership training, project management, HR planning, accounting, etc.
  • Hosting fundraising events to involve the community and expand reach
  • Running a corporate matching-gift program

Be an Equal Partner

A successful partnership is always of equals.

There are many instances when nonprofits tend to consider themselves to be the inferior one, which leads to an imbalance in their way of working.

Corporate businesses and nonprofits need to acknowledge the fact that they’re both deriving value from the partnership. With such an approach, there is bound to be mutual respect, sowing the seeds for a supportive and rewarding partnership.

Maintain Open Communication

A huge aspect of being equal partners is maintaining regular, ongoing nonprofit communication.

From putting across your needs and setting goals, to keeping them updated on ongoing initiatives and sharing metrics, it’s important to take your corporate partners along with you at every step.

So establish goals, deliverables and timelines at the start of your association.

Email newsletters are a great way to keep them informed and invested. You can take inspiration from some newsletter examples to help you design engaging ones.

Like any other partnership, even a nonprofit-corporate partnership should be based on shared goals, trust and transparency. So follow these guidelines to find and engage corporate partners who can amplify your efforts and help you make a positive difference.

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