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Tips to secure corporate partners for your nonprofit

When it comes to finding a corporate partner for your nonprofit organization, doing one’s homework is critically important. Successfully approaching businesses requires a two-sided analysis.  These tips will help you to secure partnerships and sustain long term relationships:

  1. Know who you are. Do your homework – on you!  Make sure you have a clearly defined mission statement and your specific programs and initiatives are actually directed toward furthering your mission.  At CURE Childhood Cancer, our mission is to fund pediatric cancer research and provide crisis-oriented support to patients and their families.  We work hard to maintain a laser like focus on that mission with everything we undertake.  When we ask businesses to partner with CURE, we are confident in our ability to tie our request directly to the mission of the organization. 
  1. Know who they are. Before you approach a business, find out whether they have a specific philanthropic focus and/or what they have done previously to support the community.  Have they engaged in cause-marketing efforts? Have they sponsored fundraising events or engaged their employees in volunteer work?  Do they have specific causes or organizations they support which are aligned with their corporate goals, and does your nonprofit fit?  Corporate websites often contain this information.  Do as much research as possible to learn about their past charitable contributions and community involvement.
  2. Know who to meet with. Cold calling works occasionally but is the least effective way to secure meaningful business partnerships.  When you have identified a prospect, find out if anyone on your board or within your network has an “in” with the company and find out what you may have in common with their community affairs rep — hometown, college, hobbies, previous employer, church or school. These commonalities will help “warm up” your self-introduction and give you a framework to communicate your specific requests and the compelling reasons they should consider a partnership.
  3. Know what to ask for. Identify and be prepared to articulate why partnering with your nonprofit is good for their business.  In other words, what’s in it for them? No matter how much your nonprofit represents a “good cause” and is doing important work, companies have business goals to further and will be far more interested in partnering if you can present a request that furthers their goals while also helping your nonprofit.  Additionally, resist the urge to “shoot for the moon” right out of the blocks.  It’s much better to spend time cultivating the relationship before asking for too much.  Provide opportunities for them to really get to know your organization before supporting it with company resources.
  4. Know how to show appreciation. Once you secure a sponsorship, you must put in equal if not more effort, showing genuine gratitude and communicating the impact the company is having. Say “thanks” regularly by sharing their support with your community – a one-off email, an unscheduled blog post, even asking your PR and marketing team to find media opportunities that feature their involvement. Stay in touch by focusing on the impact of the company’s support by sharing inspiring stories and ongoing communication of the powerful results. And always remember your corporate sponsors and partners at holidays, on birthdays, and invite them to events even if they don’t have a role – it shows your understanding that the sum of their parts is helping to make your organization whole.

Corporate partnerships can be extremely valuable to nonprofits, with benefits in terms of funding, volunteer manpower and visibility and credibility.  Doing the proper research, formulating the proper request and showing genuine appreciation are key to success.

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About Kristin Connor

Kristin Connor is Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based national non-profit which funds research to find a cure and effective treatments for children's cancer and supports programs for patients and families fighting the disease. In 2015-2016, CURE Childhood Cancer awarded 2.5 Million in grant monies to healthcare research institutions working on new treatments leading to a cure for childhood cancer.

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