How to Get Your Next Corporate Partner for your Nonprofit
You know the most likely person at a company to reject an appeal to sponsor your nonprofit is the one with one of these titles:
- Director of Corporate Social Responsibility
- Director of Corporate Citizenship
- Director of Community Relations
- Director of Corporate Affairs
- Director of Corporate Giving
Because every day nonprofits approach these key people with solicited and unsolicited requests for support.
According to Hubspot, 60% of customers say “no” four times to a sales pitch before they finally say “yes” (if they ever do). In other words, to succeed in starting new corporate partnerships, a development team must overcome a lot of rejection.
However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. You can empower your team to build relationships with companies quickly and effectively, without having to continually overcome rejection. That’s why I’m sharing an approach that doesn’t require getting a “yes” from individuals who’ve made it their job to say “no” to nonprofits every day.
Instead, let’s explore how to contact companies in a way that makes them eager to say “yes.”
Why You Should Go Through a Company’s ‘Side Door’
First, by going a different route than everyone else, especially to a department that isn’t rejecting nonprofit proposals daily, you don’t have to stand out from all the other organizations who put together better solicitations than you.
Secondly, your goal with an initial conversation shouldn’t always be to get a new sponsor. That’s a nice idea, but it’s far better (and more likely) to simply get your foot in the door. What you really want with a company is a long-term relationship, not a one-off gift or a generic (cold) invitation to submit a proposal.
Third, here’s an obvious one, but often overlooked principle that drives how successful you will be at getting your foot in the door with new corporate partners: The more valuable your offer and the easier it is for them to say “yes,” the more times you will get that same answer. Many a compelling offer got stuck in limbo because it wasn’t valuable enough for consideration or because it had to get approval from a committee.
How This ‘Side Door’ Helps You to Quickly Start a Relationship?
What is something that many companies want and already do to grow their own customer base?
The answer: Create content!
Companies use their subject-matter expertise to create content (blogs, emails, digital downloads, podcasts, etc), that is then used to attract new people by entertaining or helping them solve problems.
So, what if you were to reach out to a company who has parallel or complementary subject-matter expertise to your organization and partner with them to create new and valuable content?
In working with you, a company gets a fresh perspective to their content (as do you), and you can tap into new audiences when you promote the resource you collaborated on.
Here are some examples:
- A nonprofit that helps people who are homeless could partner with a company that sells outdoor gear, together creating a guide on the best sleeping bags and other cold weather gear.
- An animal shelter could partner with a pet food manufacturer to create a guide that helps pet owners understand pet nutrition, pet allergies, etc.
- A food bank could partner with well-known chefs to create a recipe book for families that love to show hospitality to others.
How to Reach Out Through the ‘Side Door’
Finally, let’s address to whom exactly you should contact at a company. Who is already tasked with creating content, is connected to subject-matter experts and isn’t spending all their time sifting through sponsorship requests?
The answer is the marketing department.
Even though your strategy to form a relationship with a company will usually be compelling, your actual outreach is extremely important. Regardless of how good your offer is, if you don’t communicate it clearly, you aren’t going to secure a new partner.
In short, put together a brief cold email or social media direct message and include these four aspects in your message:
- A hook to get their attention. Write a question or a timely/relevant sentence.
- A short anchor to connect you. Share how you benefited from the company, their products, services or content. Be specific.
- An ask. Explain why and how you can feature their expertise.
- A call to action. Simply ask yes or no questions to see if they are interested.
Once you craft a simple pitch that shows the receiver that you are familiar with their company and have something to offer that helps them, you are very likely to get a positive response.
Finally, I always recommend that you follow up two to four times. It could be you wrote the perfect pitch, but your contact was on vacation, and a little reminder is all they need to get back to you.
Chris Barlow is the founder of Beeline Marketing, which helps nonprofits grow the reach of their missions and donor bases.