How to find & attract corporate partners
In 2020, companies gave $17 billion to nonprofits.
That’s significant. But individual donations totaled $324 billion and overshadowed corporate giving. Does that mean corporate partnerships are not worth pursuing?
No! Money is only a part of the story. Read on to learn what corporate partners can do to support your organization.
Companies support organizations like yours in many ways, including:
- Financial support for fundraising events and/or programs (i.e. sponsorships)
- A workplace giving program (employees can give automatically from each paycheck)
- A matching gift program (company matching donations of individual employees)
- In-kind donations (donation of goods and services)
- Skills-based support (employees who consult for your organization)
- Cause marketing (% of sales donated)
- Volunteers or a volunteer grant program (encouraging or paying employees to volunteer)
- Referrals to a pool of donors and major donors (connection to the company’s audience)
But how can you build on those relationships?
Partnerships with companies open important doors for your organization. You need to continually grow your donor base to overcome donor attrition. But you don’t need a lot of corporate partners. Instead, cultivate and maintain a handful. That can make a significant difference.
The case to attract new corporate partners is compelling, so the real question is not “why,” but how:
How do you effectively attract corporate partners?
How can you turn companies who don’t know you today into passionate partners tomorrow? First, you need to understand who to target and how.
We’ve been using this strategy for years ourselves. We’ve seen one out of every three companies say “yes” to a partnership! How many strategies do you know that have a 30% conversion rate? As a marketer, I’ve not found anything else close!
An easy thing you can ask for
You want companies to say “yes” to a partnership. So why not make the thing you’re asking for easy, quick, and even something that company wants to do anyway?
Let’s answer that question by asking two more questions:
1) What is something that companies want or need to do to attract new customers?
Digital content that helps people solve a problem, learn about their products and services, then become customers.
2) What is something that nonprofits want or need to do to attract new donors?
Digital content that helps people solve a problem, learn about their mission, then become donors.
At least in this area, companies and nonprofits can follow the same process to reach a similar goal. Let me explain this concept of attracting customers or donors in another way. If you serve people, they’ll be attracted to you, so make it part of your mission to serve your (customers or) donors, too!
So you want to attract donors by serving them. You can use sustainable digital content to help them. You can create a resource like an eBook and use it over and over again. But how can you best go about creating this kind of resource?
There are several ways to go about it. One is to tap into your own expertise as an organization. But to attract a corporate partner, why not tap into the expertise of another company?
Attract corporate partners in 3 steps
Step 1: Meet your target audience where they are by understanding their needs.
If you want to help potential donors, you need to understand the issues they have. Focus on the issues you could help them solve and those related to your mission. Create a list of the issues and potential resources you could create.
Step 2: Find and reach out to a company with subject-matter expertise and shared values.
Target a company that also has digital content (like a blog, podcast, videos, or downloadable resources) and a large audience or customer base. They’ll be more likely to want to work with you. Reach out to the company. Let them know the problem your audience has. Then tell them you want to feature their thought leadership (and even products/services when appropriate) through a digital resource.
Step 3: Collaborate to create a digital resource.
The resource you create together should:
- Help your donors
- Give them a taste of your mission
- And connect them with your corporate partners’ content, products, or services.
What companies get from a partnership
Attracting corporate partners is most effective when you help them achieve their goals while furthering your mission. So, what are the goals most companies are interested in? Here are several:
- More customers or sales
- Brand image
- Employee satisfaction
- Caring for customers, employees, their community
- Employee retention (younger employees don’t stick around if a company doesn’t share their values)
- Tax write-offs
- Using their (or the company’s) expertise to help others
- Furthering their values (which can mean furthering your mission)
The way to get a company interested in partnership is to show them how they can achieve their goals by working with your organization. When you pitch a collaboration to create a digital resource, here are some of the specific things you can offer a potential corporate partner:
- Brand image: great publicity working with a nonprofit at no cost
- Greater reach: links to their products & services in the resource and in your promotions
- Employee satisfaction/retention: an opportunity to live out their values in a practical way
- New leads/customers: getting email subscribers or followers on social media
- Free marketing: you can promote the content you create through a nonprofit-only advertising grant – Google Ad Grants!
Once you’ve completed a project with a company like this, you have your foot in the door. You can report on how the promotion goes and discuss ideas for your next collaboration. Here’s your chance to ask for an introduction to the person managing their giving programs, volunteers, or sponsorships!
If you want your pitches to be compelling to companies, start by serving your potential partner. Show them how you can help them reach their goals and make your ask something they want to do anyway!
Want more details on the exact steps to find ideal corporate partners and reach out to them? Download a free Corporate Partnerships Attraction Kit from Beeline!
Chris Barlow is the author of this article, the founder of Beeline Marketing, and has been working with nonprofits since 2015. If you’d like to read more articles about corporate partnerships, attracting donors, and more, check out Beeline’s nonprofit marketing blog!