Making the Match
10 Tips for Successful
Corporate/Nonprofit Partnerships
Susan McPherson
July 7, 2014
Why should nonprofits seek
corporate partners & (vice
versa) in the first place?
#1: Create a prospect list.
(do your research!)
#2: Define your value proposition.
#3: Get creative.
#4: Find your way in.
#5: Set the ground rules.
#6: Engage everyone.
#7: Go public.
#8: Measure Success.
#9: Network.
#10: Plan ahead.
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10 Tips for Creating Meaningful Corporate/NGO Partnerships


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Presented to Inspired Capital's Summer Fellows on July 8, 2014.

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  • Interactive- post this question to the audience.
    Then you can recap the reasons why: sustainable and reliable source of funding; increased visibility; in-kind donations and resources; connecting to a wider network with $$, business advice
  • As our friend Kim Kardashian knows, not every match ends well. Better to do your due diligence before you get ahead of yourself!
    Before nonprofits start going after partners, they should do a good deal of research to figure out which companies they want to go after. And be picky! Think about things like:
    -What kind of company would care about the nonprofit’s cause?
    -What brands are a good match in terms of values, look and feel?
    -What kind of companies does the nonprofit absolutely not want to pursue?
    -Are there companies that have partnered with similar nonprofits in the past?

    Do your research to figure out what kind of companies your nonprofit wants to work with and, as important, what kind of companies would be more likely to work with your nonprofit. Then create a list that you can use going forward.
  • In a perfect world, companies would be inspired to give nonprofits money because they believe in the moral imperative of their causes. And while many companies do genuinely care about the issues that their nonprofit partners support, there are other factors at play.

    Too many non-profits approach companies with their cause in mind, rather than explaining how working together will help the corporation. Before you even begin going after nonprofits, figure out how you will talk about your nonprofit in a way that stands out and clearly points to your value from the brand’s perspective.

    As more corporations commit resources to social impact work, they are being forced to define their sustainability, cause marketing or Foundation work in similar ways. Specificity on your part will help to clarify your alignment or provide that company with much need specificity.
  • Next, think about what kind of partnership you’re looking for and the different ways you may be willing to join forces with an organization. Partnerships come in all shapes and sizes– maybe it’s a joint crowdfunding campaign, maybe it’s an in-kind donation from a corporation, maybe it’s getting a free commercial from a corporate broadcaster… who knows! There are many ways to give, and depending on the company you’re asking and the nature of the nonprofit, you can certainly get creative. Also think about the various things you could give a partner in return, whether it’s access to a community on social media, prime placement of their logo or access to a workplace volunteering program.
  • So you know who you’re going after, you have a clear value proposition and you’ve thought about creative opportunities for partnering. But no matter how well a nonprofit’s mission aligns with a brand or how creative or perfect you think your nonprofit’s partnership idea is, you still need a way to get in front of the company. There is the traditional route of applying for a grant or a sponsorship… sometimes this works, but often you’ll need a connection alongside that. Check LinkedIn to see who you may know who knows someone at your target companies and ask for an intro. Attend events like (Social Innovation Summit, Social Good Summit). Reach out on Twitter to build relationships. Attend #CSRchat (explain). You’ll need to do everything you can to build the relationship so you can get in front of the right company at the right time.
  • So let’s say you did the work and you’ve finally gotten a company to support your partnership pitch. After some vetting to ensure that it’s a good match, it’s time to set up the program. As you do, remember that this is designed to be mutually beneficial—it’s a partnership! Both sides of the partnership should have a voice and neither should feel like they are compromising values or vision for the other. Setting clear guidelines, roles and mutual goals at the beginning will help you avoid headaches in the future.
  • For corporate partners, the benefit is all about engagement. So as you begin to launch and set up programs, focus on how these efforts can engage everyone in the company’s ecosystem, from employees to customers to board members to executive leadership.
    SPEAK TO HOW GIRL RISING HAS HELPED ENGAGED Intel’s leadership, employees, customers, and more…
  • No one likes to brag– especially not nonprofits. But the more that you and the corporate partner can speak publicly about the relationship—whether it’s in the media, through joint content or materials, on social channels or at events—the more solidified the partnership will be. Additionally, it will give the nonprofit and the company both positive exposure and may even lead to new relationships.
  • While corporations are keen to increase their social impact work, they are still faced with justifying the cost to leadership. A powerful way to overcome this obstacle is to include the metrics by which success will be measured both in terms of the social impact and the value to the brand. Such accountability will give the brand confidence to commit to the partnership and help them sell it internally. This will ensure lasting partnerships.

    ABOVE: Warby Parker partners with Vision Spring
  • One of the best parts about strong nonprofit partners? They can introduce you to other companies and potential board members that can also support your cause. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to get to know the network surrounding your corporate partners’ leadership. Don’t be afraid to ask to set up meetings or go to the company asking for suggestions on who they might be able to introduce you to.
  • Don’t just assume your partnership is going to renew itself. Make the ask early: what will this partnership look like next year? How can we keep it sustainable for years to come? This may include providing reports and recommendations, but just make sure you get ahead of the curve so you’re not surprised when funding suddenly stops pouring in. Think about new and exciting ways to spice the partnerships up and make sure you’re always framing future conversations in a way that makes sense to both parties.
  • 10 Tips for Creating Meaningful Corporate/NGO Partnerships

    1. 1. Making the Match 10 Tips for Successful Corporate/Nonprofit Partnerships Susan McPherson @susanmcp1 July 7, 2014
    2. 2. Why should nonprofits seek corporate partners & (vice versa) in the first place?
    3. 3. #1: Create a prospect list. (do your research!)
    4. 4. #2: Define your value proposition.
    5. 5. #3: Get creative.
    6. 6. #4: Find your way in.
    7. 7. #5: Set the ground rules.
    8. 8. #6: Engage everyone.
    9. 9. #7: Go public.
    10. 10. #8: Measure Success.
    11. 11. #9: Network.
    12. 12. #10: Plan ahead.
    13. 13. Questions?
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