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4 Tips for Rock-Solid Corporate Partnerships

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Published April 11, 2017 Reading Time: 4 minutes

To land a corporate giving partner, they must know how the partnership will benefit their organization. Making the leap from corporate sponsorship to corporate partnership is an important step for nonprofit organizations to secure new funding, marketing, and engagement opportunities.

In the webinar “Corporate Sponsorships 101: How to Pitch an Investor and Secure Funding,” we discussed basic and advanced strategies with two women experienced in major corporate-nonprofit partnerships.

Amy George Susan McPherson webinar hosts

Amy George, Senior Vice President of Giving, Marketing, and Communications at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, delivered tons of insights and lessons to help you recruit and secure corporate partners, as well as foster a lasting fruitful relationship. Here are just a few of their insider tips.

What Is a Corporate Partnership?

A corporate partnership is a mutually-beneficial relationship between a for-profit corporation and a nonprofit organization. Typically, the for-profit business contributes money or in-kind donations in exchange for something they find beneficial. This may come in the form of brand reputation, opportunities to strengthen their corporate social responsibility initiatives, or exposure to new audiences.

Nonprofits Partnering With Corporations

1. Think Beyond “Checkbook Philanthropy”

The first way to set your corporate partnership up for success is to understand that corporate social responsibility is no longer as simple as signing a check. 

To maximize the benefits for both your nonprofit and potential partner, identify what a company has to offer other than money. After all, any business can write a check. To make the most of this relationship, you need to identify and ask for other types of support that lead to social impact.

One of MADD’s biggest wins in their multi-year partnership with Uber, explains George, was when the ride-sharing company promoted MADD in an email to their 10 million subscribers. “They sent one email and we made more in 72 hours than we did in the first six months of the year,” said George. It wasn’t Uber’s money that provided this win, but the reach and new audiences they could give MADD.

2. Compare Audiences

Naturally, since a corporate partner’s audience can be such a big asset, it pays to do some homework to identify your best prospects. In fact, you should also think through your nonprofit’s audience to determine what kind of exposure you can offer a company. One reason MADD’s partnership with Uber makes sense is that the average Uber user is 21 to 34 years old, a demographic with higher rates of drunk driving.

When they worked with JCPenney, McPherson Strategies recognized that the department store’s primary audience was mothers, who lean toward causes related to children. That was one reason McPherson Strategies paired JCPenney with YMCA to provide afterschool programs for children. For both nonprofits and for-profits, the right partner is often the organization with the right audience.

JCPenney YMCA corporate partners

3. Know Your Points of Contact and Decision-Maker

Nonprofits are often stereotyped as slow to adapt. Meanwhile, large corporations can struggle with bureaucracy. That’s why McPherson and George emphasized the importance of nailing down your points of contact and the ultimate decision-maker. It’s much easier to move forward on an initiative if you know who to engage in your outreach.

Within your own team, establish a point person to lead your corporate partnership opportunities. This is who will directly communicate with all potential corporate partners and help nurture each relationship. This is important for the sake of partner retention, and also ensuring that each business partner is taken care of throughout the entire process. 

4. Mobilize Employees to Fundraise and Volunteer

When thinking about a corporate partnership, many think only of the financial support a few powerful people in the business can offer. In reality, the entire staff of your partner organization can become allies for your cause with strategic employee engagement tactics.

Nonprofits that rely on volunteers can recruit small and large groups for one-time or recurring shifts to help support specific events and other initiatives. Furthermore, now that online peer-to-peer fundraising is simpler and more popular than ever, employees of your corporate partner can also raise big money. 

For example, buildOn, a longtime Classy partner, asked our employees to fundraise to build a school. Dozens of our employees signed up and created fundraising pages. In a couple of months, they raised more than $122,000 by contacting their networks through social media, email, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations.

Mobilize Employees to Fundraise and Volunteer

In addition to the fundraising support these employees can offer, you also stand to gain tons of new donors and even a few devoted advocates. The relationship may start through an employee-giving campaign, but great donor stewardship can lead to years of loyal support.

Turn Your Corporate Sponsors Into Long-Term Corporate Partners With Classy

The opportunities a strong corporate partnership can offer are well worth the effort required to establish those connections. By identifying a business with a common goal and commitment to the sustainability of your work, you’re on the right path to engaging new local communities and elevating your social impact

With Classy, nonprofits can unlock co-branded giving pages, events, corporate sponsorships, peer-to-peer fundraising, and employee donation matching all in one place. Consider what you could accomplish with a multi-pronged partnership solution that helps you create a repeatable, mutually-beneficial process for driving direct donations, storytelling, and engaging employees to fundraise on your behalf. 

Learn more about Classy’s Corporate Partnership tools. 

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Fuel Your Corporate Partnerships With Classy

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