How to Create/Engage a Corporate Partner
By Susan Rostkoski, Principal Consultant “Nonprofits and their corporate colleagues have a codependent relationship. Corporations provide nonprofits with financial support, and in return, nonprofits provide corporations with positive PR and a boost in business.” Sean Horrigan, online educational community contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and marketing/PR consultant
Those words capture the basics of engagement between nonprofits and corporate supporters. And yet, as with all relationships, the details matter tremendously--and perhaps what matters most is remembering that you are dealing with a person, not the corporation.
So here are a few thoughts —or reminders—about what really matters:
Before you even approach anyone, evaluate your assets, both from a visibility standpoint and from a business connection standpoint (we are a food shelf and you are a food distribution company). How is your reputation in the community? Are you ready to answer questions your prospect might pose about what’s in it for them? What has worked or not worked in the past? What are the strongest metrics you could share?
TARGET, TARGET, TARGET! There is little worse than approaching a potential partner that ends up being wrong for you. Take time to do some research on their website, LinkedIn profiles, internet postings and newspaper articles. Their website will likely paint a rosy picture, but internet chatter may have a different take. Check at least two sources if the news is negative. Get familiar with their profitability. Many companies change their giving based on how their revenues/stocks are doing.
When you put together your sponsorship proposal, be sure your website, newsletter, and all social media are listed prominently. Will there be banners, signage, print and web ads, radio spots, press releases, invitations, or email campaigns connected with this sponsorship? Your potential sponsor will want maximum visibility and potential increased business in exchange for their donation. What are the numbers that will make that a reality?
Help them get to know you. This under-utilized technique takes time that you likely feel you don’t have. But think about where you might be if you started three years ago. It is cultivation in the same way you might cultivate an individual. Can one of your Board members reach a decision-maker for coffee and conversation and invite you along to talk about about their ideal sponsorship partner? Is there an employee inside the company who can give you the scoop and/or introduce you to the right person? Would your contact be willing to stop by to see the child care playground being built by volunteers so they know you attract both people and funds to carry out what you say you will do? How about sending a postcard bullet-pointing three to five successes in the area that you want them to sponsor?
While corporations view sponsorship as a business arrangement, always, always remember you are dealing with a real person. Appreciation through well-planned and succinct calls or emails, asking for input on how they like to interact with the nonprofits they have sponsored in the past, offering volunteering opportunities—all give you touch-points that will linger with the person who is charged with making this work for their company, producing a win for them and for you.
Paying attention to the details as you nurture your corporate (and other!) relationships will greatly assist you in maximizing your efforts.