Preparing for Corporate Partnerships
Today’s companies understand the value of being involved in communities. On the other hand, at the end of the day they’re in the business of making money, whatever their business is. A corporate cause partnership is a relationship that’s mutually beneficial, helping a for-profit better achieve its bottom line and a nonprofit its mission. That said, following tried-and-true guidance for building partnerships from the get-go is crucial.
Jocelyne Daw is vice president of the Imagine Canada Caring Company program and author of “Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits.” She advises a nonprofit that is new to corporate partnering to imagine that it has 10 seconds to clearly define its cause, then analyze what it can bring to a corporate partnership.
“It isn’t just about you going to a corporation … looking for corporate donations,” Daw says. “This is looking for something where you want to partner with a company on a bigger scale than just getting money. So really you’ve got to step back and do some sort of internal thinking and preparation of who you are and what it is you can bring.”
Nonprofits have very valuable assets that can help a company achieve bottom-line results. Some are “soft” things like employee pride or engagement. Others are tangible, like helping a company with sales.
At this point you can begin researching to find companies that are an obvious fit. It’s key to research companies before approaching them, so that you have a very clear idea of what they are and don’t waste their time.
“You’ve got to be able to — in a 10-second phone call trying to set up a meeting — explain to them what it is that you can do to help them,” Daw says.
Make sure you understand what their needs are and what you can do to help them achieve their goals and objectives, while at the same time “not turning yourself into a pretzel to achieve goals for them without achieving goals for yourself.”
Before an organization goes in to meet with a company, Daw advises it look at its presentation from the company’s perspective, then sit down with the company and look at how you can achieve your goals together. Outline outcomes that both sides want to achieve. Then create and execute the partnership, and that means coming through on things you’ve promised to do.
“Make sure that when you make commitments in a partnership, you deliver on those commitments and that you really keep the lines of communication open. It is a partnership, so you’ve got to communicate, keep in touch, make sure that what you’ve said you’re going to do, you deliver on and that you know the outcomes are there both for the nonprofit but also for your corporate partner,” Daw says
She recommends putting together a memorandum of understanding that outlines what both parties have committed to, outlines some key times when you’ll connect and communicate, and establishes one person — an account manager, of sorts — who will be the point of contact for the company.
Depending on its length, create a process for evaluating the partnership. How can you keep it fresh and celebrate it? Make changes according to what’s working and what might not be working.
Daw says one of the most exciting things about working on a partnership as opposed to just getting a corporate donation are the doors it can open. The New York City Food Bank, for example, in trying to get a corporate partner, realized that one of its assets was that it was a bank and looked at ways it could develop partnerships with financial banks that would be mutually beneficial.
The Food Bank approached several senior people in the banking world with the idea and they got on board, recognizing that it was a great way to engage employees and get them involved with the community. Banks set up food drop-off spots and lent their name, some of their marketing and some of their staff to the partnership.
After the program, the Food Bank invited bank employees to help sort the food, reinforcing the connection with the employees, which, in turn, helped them feel good about the companies they were working for and got them involved in the community without necessarily having to make a big volunteer commitment.
As the above example shows, corporate partners can bring an enormous amount more than just money.
“Companies can bring some important assets such as reaching new consumers that [an organization] might not be able to afford to reach on their own; they can bring employee volunteers that can be a new source of volunteer support and execution for the nonprofit partner,” Daw says.
Jocelyne Daw can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
“Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits,” Jocelyne Daw (Wiley, 2006, $48) www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471717509.html