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January 1, 2014
The Leak in Your Donor Bucket
January 15, 2014

How to Create Win-Win Corporate Partnerships


Do you want to move your corporate donors to higher levels of giving?  Broaden the types of contributions they give to your organization?  Move beyond the “buy a table at our gala” model?  Have their employees know – and love – what you do?

Corporations and nonprofits may seem like “fire and ice” but its not that hard to bring together seemingly disparate interests and create partnerships that work for everyone.

In fact, this is the perfect time of year to start putting together a corporate partnership program that will help you achieve all these things and more.

But first, here’s what you DON’T do: Do not sit at your computer and hammer out a set of corporate benefits and then send out a mailing asking companies to participate.  It won’t work.

Here’s what you do instead: Create a sense of ownership by inviting companies to help you design the program and then ask them to sell it to their peers.

Start by recruiting an ad hoc corporate committee.

This might be comprised of a few members of your board, a couple of existing donors, and one or two new prospects.  Five or six people is plenty, but if you can get up to eight, that’s even better.  While this might turn into a permanent committee, it’s good to keep the initial commitment time-limited and focused.

Be clear that you are recruiting committee members to do three things:

a) Provide critical input on the creation of a corporate partnership program that will support your nonprofit’s mission, while also offering meaningful benefits for their companies.

b) Be among the first companies to join the program.

c) Invite at least three other companies to join.

Design a win-win corporate partnership program.

Hold no more than two meetings (preferably one) with the committee to flesh out the benefits of the program.  These will be entirely dependent upon your mission and the opportunities you have to offer.   Here are some guidelines for creating a program that will work for all parties:

Keep the benefits simple.  Remember, you’re going to have to fulfill them!  You don’t need too many (five or six will do) and they should be built primarily around things you’d already be doing anyway.  It defeats the purpose to add a bunch of new events that will cost you money.

Keep the benefits in line with your brand.  You’re trying to create a relationship that is grounded in your mission. Take advantage of your unique opportunities for engagement.  In the case of Via Mobility Services, they have a fleet of vehicles that provide the perfect recognition tool.  Corporate partners can sign up for a month or even a year of logo exposure on a Via van.  They’ve kindly agreed to let us include their corporate partnership program as an example of one that was created  with a corporate committee and that has demonstrated solid results in a very short time.

Create benefits that companies want.  And what do they want?  For the most part, they want employee engagement, brand visibility and enhanced reputation.  They want to align with high-quality nonprofits and they want to generate goodwill among their primary constituencies.  It’s hard to know how this translates at your nonprofit unless you ask companies directly what they value in their relationship with you.  So, ask them.  That’s what your ad hoc committee is for.

Ask your corporate folks to do what comes naturally – SELL!

If every one of your corporate committee members sells two or three partnerships, you’ll be ahead of the game.  And they’ll feel great about it.  And then imagine what would happen if you were to ask every new corporate partner to bring in another company.  Try it and see!

If you want companies to partner with you – really partner with you – invite them in on the front end.  You’ll end up with a program that strikes a healthy balance between their needs and yours, while raising more and more money for your vital mission.



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