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5 Creative Examples of Corporate Sponsorships

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By Korrin Bishop

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Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the critical social justice movement, businesses and nonprofits alike have looked for ways to deepen their impact in the world. The year 2020 has highlighted the value of for-profit and nonprofit partnerships, and it’s a trend we expect to continue into 2021.

As donations waned for some nonprofits during the economic slowdown, for-profit companies have been able to partner with them to fill in the gaps. Simultaneously, for-profit businesses are able to both add purpose to their model and engage their staff and communities, as these cross-sector collaborations can increase employee engagement and retention rates by 5 to 7% and sales up to 7%.

With the bond between the nonprofit and for-profit sectors becoming stronger than ever, you may want to consider how your nonprofit can establish a partnership with a business. Below, we showcase five examples of how different nonprofits and for-profits have partnered on campaigns to inspire your own outreach and collaboration.

1. Leverage Corporate Partners to Access Influencers and Major Donations

Team Rubicon is a nonprofit that mobilizes veterans to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Mountain Dew kicked off a partnership with Team Rubicon by making a generous $1 million donation. That type of large contribution can build excitement and momentum for additional giving.

Coupled with its donation, the company paired one of its celebrity influencers, professional race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., with the nonprofit’s cause. Mountain Dew framed Earnhardt’s role as helping “rally DEW® Nation to participate in the MTN DEW® x Team Rubicon mission.” “DEW® Nation,” the company’s consumers, could donate to Team Rubicon and receive limited-edition MTN DEW® x Team Rubicon products, such as shirts, backpacks, tents, and even a race-day experience with Earnhardt himself.

Partnering with a large corporation can bring resources to your nonprofit to which you may not otherwise have access. When collaborating with a for-profit, consider the variety of ways they can elevate your cause, including influencers, products, marketing, and financial support.

2. Partner to Conduct Research and Raise Awareness

Team Rubicon also partnered with jerky company Jack Link’s Protein Snacks. This partnership was heavily framed around research and education. 

Jack Link’s supported the collection of national survey data on the long-term impacts of natural disasters to help Team Rubicon tell a data-driven story about its mission. These data also serve to educate Team Rubicon’s prospective donors on how Americans underestimate the full impact of humanitarian crises and what the nonprofit is doing to address that. 

Jack Link’s framed its decision to pursue the partnership with data-driven messaging, further building a case that Team Rubicon’s value is evidence-based and donors’ money will be used effectively.

Their press release begins with:

“As hurricane season begins this month, and devastating storms begin to take their annual toll on the country, new survey data from Jack Link’s Protein Snacks found that Americans misunderstand the long-term impact of these storms, and other natural disasters, on communities—many of which are still in need of relief and aid today.”

It goes on to share some of the facts and figures from the survey data, as well as quotes from company leaders emphasizing the value of the partnership:

“‘Cleaning up the aftermath of natural disasters has become a difficult reality for many Americans throughout the country—a struggle that often goes unnoticed once the initial wave of support subsides,’ said T.D. ‘Tom’ Dixon, chief marketing officer at Jack Link’s. ‘After reviewing survey data from our Team Rubicon partnership, we have a better understanding of the misconceptions that exist around disaster relief and the lack of support for local communities who continue to struggle in the wake of disaster devastation. In an effort to aid families in need, Jack Link’s is raising awareness for the cause, donating resources and harnessing the strength and passion of our team members on the front lines.’”

In addition, Jack Link’s leveraged “National Jerky Day” to grow awareness for Team Rubicon’s cause and increase donations through offering both an in-kind and financial match. For every bag of jerky consumers bought, Jack Link’s donated a bag to Team Rubicon’s field volunteers. They also matched consumer donations to Team Rubicon dollar for dollar on that day.

While your nonprofit may not have the resources on its own to conduct major research, a for-profit can partner with you to gather key data on your mission. Using this data can heighten people’s trust in your nonprofit and make them more likely to participate in a matching campaign.

3. Elevate a Shared Brand Ethos Through Profit-Sharing

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. SoulCycle partnered with the nonprofit during Pride Month to help raise funds for its mission through profit-sharing.

The Trevor Project and SoulCycle, while different in one being a nonprofit and the other a for-profit, share a similar brand ethos around the themes of acceptance and support. This facilitated a partnership that felt organic in its branding, with SoulCycle introducing the partnership under the tagline, “Ride as you are. Love as you are.” The spin business also created a fun video to showcase the collaboration and celebrate Pride, providing greater audience reach for The Trevor Project’s work.

In addition to the marketing element, SoulCycle created a special class pack for Pride Month where 10% of all proceeds were donated to The Trevor Project.

When considering a partnership with a for-profit business, look for companies that share a similar brand and mission to your nonprofit. This will allow you to tap into an audience that is likely already more receptive to your message and ready to join in to support the partnership’s goals. Also, think outside of the box; one might not think immediately of pairing LGBTQ services and cycling, but consider how you can still create a mission-aligned partnership with a company that shares similar core values and can open you up to a new audience.

4. Curate Limited-Edition Products That Support Your Mission

The Trevor Project also partnered with clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch during Pride. The company provided a $200,000 donation to The Trevor Project and worked directly with the nonprofit to design a limited-edition, gender-neutral clothing line in support of Pride and The Trevor Project.

The website includes language affirming the partnership and The Trevor Project’s mission, acknowledging the company’s desire to remember that Pride started as a protest.

Partnering with a for-profit business to create limited edition products serves as a way to raise money for your nonprofit while also increasing your brand awareness. Supporters seen wearing your clothing line or other swag around town can use that experience as a conversation starter with others about your mission.

5. Design Creative Giveaways in Support of Fundraising Goals

Feeding San Diego is a nonprofit addressing hunger in San Diego by connecting those in need with nutritious meals. Perfect Snacks partnered with the nonprofit to add incentives for supporters of its campaign. For every $100 a supporter donates, they receive a raffle ticket for a variety of prizes, including gift cards to DoorDash, Crate & Barrel, and Trader Joe’s, as well as protein bars from Perfect Snacks and a new TV.

For-profit partners may be able to more easily round up support from other businesses looking to partner on a cause. Consider using your for-profit partnership to gather raffle prize donations to encourage supporter participation in your campaigns.

Increase Your Impact Through a For-Profit and Nonprofit Partnership

The economic and social climate of 2020 has ushered in increased interest in meaningful for-profit and nonprofit partnerships. Use these cross-sector collaborations as opportunities to reach new audiences with your mission, secure needed resources, and, ultimately, further your impact.

The Guide to Pitching Corporate Sponsors

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