25 Ideas to Build a Lasting Partnership with a Business

Government funding is drying up, foundations are cautious, and individual donors are wary. Who in the nonprofit sector wouldn’t like to diversity their development efforts by raising more dollars from business sponsorships and partnerships? Small wonder that we when we promoted a Bagel Banter Breakfast roundtable for nonprofit professionals on this topic, we had a response rate that almost tripled that for any other breakfast over the past three years.

American corporations continue to give, on average, less than one percent of their pre-tax earnings, so there is a mighty small slice of pie that nonprofits are competing for. And whether we like it or not, our work to raise these dollars almost always needs to be through the lens of a marketing campaign or sponsorship rather than traditional philanthropy.

There’s a lot to think about on this subject, so in the next three Rich TIPs, we’re going to explore the challenges of raising corporate dollars. One of our key themes is the critical need to develop these connections over time in a lasting way. You may have inroads with a business that begin with a transaction (the business donates product to you or buys a table at an event), evolves into a relationship (the business is represented on your board), and, ideally, eventually matures into a true partnership (formalized connections that extend beyond one contact person and into shared values, joint branding and promotion, and includes a much broader base of volunteers/employees).

We’ll start this week with a wide-ranging checklist of ways that your existing transactions and relationships with businesses can be strengthened into lasting partnerships.

  1. Make sure that a senior executive of theirs is on your board.
  2. Engage their employees as your volunteers, particularly in longer term assignments such as mentors matched with a client, etc.
  3. Make sure the company knows where your locations/programs match where their customers and employees live and work.
  4. Design a one-day event where their employees and your staff or clients do service work together (it’s a great photo and video opportunity).
  5. Include their management team in your outreach/mission events (VIP table, have them help hand out awards, sign certificates, etc.).
  6. Ask them to allocate marketing dollars for baseball caps, T-shirts, water bottles, etc. with both logos. Print shared holiday greeting cards with both logos, too.
  7. Maintain a literature rack or kiosk about you at their location(s).
  8. Maintain a literature rack or kiosk about them at your location(s).
  9. Have reciprocal links to each other’s web sites (“Our top business partner,” “Our favorite nonprofit,” etc.)
  10. Ask about the company offering a “half-and-half” drawing (employees voluntarily make a $1 donation at their monthly staff meeting, with half the money raised going to you and half to a winning name drawn from the donor pool).
  11. Ask about ways to formalize and publicize that you are “the” nonprofit that the company has exclusively “adopted.”
  12. Offer your youth clients to be of service to their employees: an onsite car wash; cook and serve a BBQ; present original handmade artwork.
  13. Plan a joint summer picnic or BBQ for the employee families and your staff and/or the families you serve–create annual traditions together that everyone looks forward to.
  14. Have a bowling tournament or softball game with teams from both entities (teams can be blended: their HR + your HR on one team competing with their communications staff + your communications staff, etc.)
  15. Give them frequent, exciting program updates–fresh data for their internal newsletters and staff meetings.
  16. Provide well-written articles (and visuals) about their support, the progress of their volunteers, and the outcomes over time made possible by this partnership.
  17. Define opportunities for company literature to be in your goody bags, packets, etc.
  18. Define opportunities for your mission brochure or card to be included with their customer bids, invoices, mailers, or packets/products.
  19. Share paid media together, including radio/TV spots, a billboard, print/electronic ads, or trade show booths.
  20. Nominate them for awards in their industry or honors hosted by the local chamber of commerce, nonprofit association, regional Philanthropy Day, etc.
  21. Set up a donor matching program (the company matches what its employees give to you).
  22. Have an annual letter of agreement that covers a range of events, activities, participation, etc.
  23. Incorporate the re-commitment event (i.e., signing of the next year’s agreement) as a mission celebration, press conference, or part of an awards banquet, etc.
  24. Make sure you are open to candid feedback about what does and does not work for the company and what they need to make their involvement more successful.
  25. Hold your board meetings in their conference room, and reciprocate if your facility accommodates their customer thank-you reception in a creative way.

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