Assess Your Readiness:
Determine if you are business-friendly. The cultures of nonprofits
and corporations are vastly different. To prepare your organization
to work with corporations, you may need to add business people
to your Board, invest in training for staff or create procedures
for fast-tracking decisions.
||Understand Your Value Proposition:
Determine which assets/capabilities that may be of value to corporations:
• having an excellent reputation and powerful mission,
so that the corporation enhances its creditability by virtue
• providing recognition, endorsements or awards
• gaining access to prospective customers of the company
• having access to programs, projects and organizational
• distributing products, such as books or pamphlets
for use as incentives or giveaways
||Know How and Why a Corporation Chooses a Cause:
Consider what types of companies would be most likely
to benefit from associations with your organization and respond
to your value proposition. Corporations seek to address an issue
that will be of particular concern to their core constituency.
The more money a company ponies up, the more likely they will
want a proprietary stake in their investment. Frequently, corporations
seek visibility though the media, so the cause needs to address
a newsworthy issue capable of generating adequate coverage. When
dollars come from a marketing budget, as opposed to a public or
community relation, it is likely that the corporation will want
the cause to help them reach specific corporate objectives such
as increasing brand loyalty or sales. Other benefits companies
may seek include:
• Enhance corporate/brand reputation by positioning
it as a responsible, caring company/brand
• Differentiate the corporation/brand
• Enhance employee recruitment and retention
• Expand opportunities for employees to practice leadership
• Increase access to markets
||Pick a Partner Wisely:
Does your mission match the goals of the corporation? The relationship
must be mutually beneficial. Does the corporation have a solid
reputation? The relationship must generate positive impact for
you as well as them. Does the corporation have a tradition of
philanthropy or is this their first initiative? Look beyond the
obvious benefits of money, business expertise and volunteers.
Corporations can often provide introductions to other businesses,
marketing outreach and in-kind services (product, services, facilities,
etc.) that are free or discounted. And of course, is the timing
right? Acknowledge the importance of chemistry.
Do due diligence to find out about the corporation’s
goals and reputation. Review annual reports, financial statements
and press clippings to ensure that the corporation is ethical
||Identify Critical Issues:
Recognize that nonprofits tend to move slower, need to build consensus
and are tighter with a dollar. Their bottom line is social return.
Corporations want financial results. Meshing the two can be difficult.
||Manage the Relationship and Expectations:
Nonprofits and corporations have different cultures and don’t
always “speak the same language.” Respect each other’s
culture. Listening to each other, having an open and honest exchange
of ideas and expectations and continually updating each other
is critical. Explore what the relationship will look like, how
it will run and what results it will produce. It is important
to educate corporate partners that it is not always about driving
sales in the short term – it is about building relationships
for the long term. Get support from senior management on both
||Develop a game plan: Determine
the scope of the relationship (paid, in-kind, volunteers, marketing
outreach, introductions, etc.) and develop costs, timelines, roles
Results: Jointly establish objectives. Measure
performance against those objectives by determining the performance
metrics that will help the corporation demonstrate success and
encourage continued commitment.
||Develop Marketing Materials:
Cover the topics of how you do business, who supports you, how
you are governed and the results you’ve achieved. Be informative
but don’t overload the client with details about your organization.
Invite potential partners to see you in action.
||Get a Referral: Having
the door opened for you will save time and energy. Scour your
networks to identify people who can introduce you to targeted
companies. Your network includes your Board, staff, friends, friends
of friends and volunteers. Do cold calling as a last resort.