Building Corporate Partners: It’s Not About the Gala

partnership-penIt is gala season! That means nonprofits are seeking corporate sponsorship dollars to not only help support these large events, but to help fund much needed programs throughout the year. At the same time, businesses are trying to justify community investment dollars as their budgets shrink.

If you work for a nonprofit and are preparing to meet with a corporate partner, it’s time to reevaluate your ask and look toward long-term programs with measurable return on investment (ROI). And I’m not talking about touting the number of people served or programs activated via your organization. Although these are incredibly important, they focus on your organization and not the corporate partner. You have to build a case for why the corporate partner should invest in your organization.

Before you set up a meeting with a corporate partner or develop a proposal, it is critical to answer a few of the following questions:

  • How does your organization “fit” with the corporate partner? Do you use their products or services? Do you have similar values? Do you operate where their employees and their families live?
  • How can you go beyond the gala event and provide additional brand activation opportunities for the corporate partner to engage with your organization?
  • Do you know who your corporate partner is trying to reach? Is it seniors? Millennials? Hispanics? Homeowners 35-50? Parents of elementary-aged children?
  • What programs or services does your organization offer that makes sense for the corporate partner to support? And, how can you leverage these opportunities?
  • How can your organization help share the corporate partner’s messaging in an appropriate way to your participants, board members and community?
  • How can you leverage your marketing communications assets, such as website, newsletters or social media, to truly benefit the corporate partner throughout the year?
  • How can you help your corporate partner network?
  • Do you have a board opening or committee where the corporate partner could become more involved?
  • What additional value-ads can you provide the corporate partner that won’t add dollars to the ask?

If you worked with the corporate partner in the past, this is also your moment to shine and showcase successes at the meeting or in the proposal! This should be a SHORT one or two page summary. Here are a few things to consider pulling together:

  • Testimony of how their support made a difference to your services, individual participants or community from the executive director and/or a program participant.
  • Whether it was a $100 or $100,000 dollar investment, how many programs or services did these dollars support? Any other specific impact of the corporate partner’s dollars?
  • Photos of the corporate partner’s employees from events, volunteer programs, speaking opportunities, etc.
  • Screenshots or samples of social media posts, website placements, mentions in newsletters, etc.

Answering and preparing these questions and materials will help build long-term programs and relationships with corporate partners. Keep in mind that the investment goes both ways. But in the end, it is all about how you can show a sponsorship or program donation’s worth to the corporate partner.

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