3 Keys of a Strong Nonprofit-Corporate Partnership
It's imperative to understand your potential corporate partner's wants and needs. Is it looking for brand exposure? The number of its employees engaged with a nonprofit partner? What are its corporate goals for this potential partnership?
For instance, Bluewolf, a global technology consulting firm, was looking for brand exposure and access to networks in its markets. Eventually, New York Needs You, which focuses on career development and leadership training for first-generation college students, formed a partnership with Bluewolf because it could provide that branding and access to its network of supporters.
"Find what's driving the organization," Kinckle said.
Now, it's never a good idea to cast your mission aside just to secure some corporate support. But "just because you haven't done something doesn't mean you shouldn't try," Mendenhall said.
Flexibility is key in any partnership, and that is especially true with a corporate partnership. Be willing to find ways to accommodate both parities.
For instance, NYNY has workshops for students, and a corporate partner wanted to speak at one of these workshops. However, that's a challenge for the organization, Mendenhall said, because there is a distinct curriculum NYNY has in place. So NYNY found other ways to accommodate that request by having its partner speak at special events and luncheons.
A truly strategic nonprofit-corporate partnership is about much more than money. It's a holistic relationship that leverages all aspects of both entities to create a winning situation. So don't approach corporate partners as ATM machines.
"We don't want to feel like a money pit and always be asked for money," Kinckle said. "That's what drew us to NYNY; it was less talk about money and more about business needs."
For instance, NYNY created a separate team focused specifically on strategic partnerships. The impetus for that, Mendenhall said, was to focus on holistic relationships that weren't always about asking for money. NYNY created a formal partner level structure, which lays out different buckets on how corporations can help (see images to the right).