7 Steps: Finding and Keeping the Right Corporate Partner

On November 15 at KCET-TV, a high-level panel of nonprofits and corporations shared their insights on how to create valuable partnerships.  Here follows a guest blog about the event.

IMG_1034As competition for financial and media support continues to increase for nonprofits, pursuing corporate partnerships is becoming a more appealing – and often necessary – strategy for many nonprofits. Here are some tips on how to find, forge and foster successful partnerships:

1. Know your nonprofit’s value.

The primary exchange in nonprofit and corporate partnership is goodwill for resources. Know that you are not just asking for money – you come bearing a great reputation, deep relationships and the power to make positive impact. Only consider partnerships that will enhance your nonprofit’s valuable reputation. Pro tip: ask yourself how being in a photo or on a panel with the corporation’s leadership would impact your nonprofit’s reputation.

2. Show your value.

Before approaching prospective partners, draft a few ideas about how your nonprofit is willing to add value to a corporation, i.e. sharing content, offering a training curriculum, providing volunteer roles, etc. Next, create a brief print or video piece that clearly shows a corporation what they would be investing in by partnering with your nonprofit. Pro tip: think of small gifts you can also leave behind (i.e. an invitation to an event, something made by program participants, etc.) so you both have a reason to talk again soon.

3. Determine the corporation’s value.

The best partnerships are about more than money – they are about shared commitment to reaching goals authentic to both the company and the nonprofit. Start with researching which corporations have values that align with your mission, and the resources to respond to your need. Pro tip: Keep in mind your nonprofit’s gift acceptance policy, which should provide guidance about entering into partnerships.

4. Schedule ahead.

Reach out to prospective partners before your need becomes an emergency – whether that need is financial or PR support – with a volunteer or pro bono production opportunity before asking for money. Connecting like this helps humanize your relationship and makes it easier for your prospect to see how their corporation might be able to help. Pro tip: November and December are a good time to ask media outlets or regular advertisers if they can provide you with free/highlight discounted air-time or mention you in their own ads – raising awareness just in time for year-end giving.

5. Making progress.

Once partnership discussions start, try to ask about the corporation’s business goals first. This allows you to better position your ideas as potential methods for achieving their goals – increasing your value as a potential partner. Be clear and detailed about everything from financial commitments to team roles and responsibilities, creative direction and even number of social media posts – and get it all in writing. Pro tip: keep a checklist in hand of items and assets that are on and off the table, and maintain value levels consistent with commitments made to your other partners/donors.

6. Protect and serve.

The larger the corporations and the longer your partnerships, the more inherent risk your nonprofit assumes. Relationship management is central to ensuring success for both organizations. Touch base regularly to make sure interests and actions remain in alignment. Celebrate your partners’ accomplishments and publically whenever it is in alignment with your mission. Pro tip: offer to make presentations to corporation stakeholders about the impact their investment is making and the joint goals you are achieving.

7. Reap the rewards.

Before your cause marketing campaign comes to an end or the final goals of a partnership are reached, make it clear to your corporate partner how they can participate in the next opportunities with your nonprofit. Now that they’ve connected with your team and your mission, engage them in extending their involvement – and how everyone can enjoy benefitting from more returns on new investments.


By Linda Gamberg, Director of Marketing & Communications for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation. She has worked with nonprofits, media outlets, municipalities, and software developers to engage audiences and develop corporate partnerships. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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