One strategy that charitable organizations can adopt in the face of rising competition for donations is placing a greater emphasis on innovation through partnerships. Partnerships are an opportunity to step up, tune out the noise, rethink funding priorities, and advance the common good. This article provides steps and a workbook to help you form effective partnerships.
A Fantastic Opportunity
Strategic partnerships with corporations and brands will allow organizations to not only reach new audiences but also to raise additional funds. This new visibility could also lead to new donors and new volunteers.
Corporate giving represents a major missed opportunity for most nonprofit organizations. Corporations are beginning to envision their role beyond shareholder value. More are investing their time and resources in promoting communities, employees, and a more diverse group of stakeholders outside those that measure success in profits.
One quote from Maureen O’Brien of NYSID sums it up: “This will drive a more robust conversation and partnership between corporations and nonprofits that serve the communities in which corporations operate.” The door is open for organizations to be catalysts, creating, and connecting more public-private partnerships in 2021.
To help you kickstart your corporate partnerships journey, there are three important decisions you need to make. The good news? Once you have all the details (which I’m going to give you) they are pretty easy decisions to make! As you continue reading, use this workbook on How to Secure Business Partnerships for Nonprofits to gain examples on how to build strong business alliances while boosting brand awareness and potential revenue for a for-profit company.
- What organizational goals would you like fulfilled in the upcoming year?
No matter the type of organization, your mission, or your scope, there are three types of performance metrics that will ensure you are on track to fulfill your purpose. Most organizations focus on the financial metrics, which are required by law. Outside of those, it is recommended to track:
- Your success in mobilizing resources
- Staff’s effectiveness on the job
- Your progress in fulfilling your mission
The first two are easily measured. However, the third type of performance metrics is a bit ambiguous and may be challenging for nonprofit organizations to tackle. Here are some options for measuring your progress in fulfilling your mission:
- Narrowly define your mission so that you can measure your progress directly. For example: The mission of Edesia is to help treat and prevent malnutrition in the world’s most vulnerable populations. Edesia can therefore measure its success by counting the number of lives nourished from the productions of their ready-to-use foods.
- Evidence based data: Invest in research to determine whether your programs and activities help to solve or mitigate the problems
- Set milestones which, if achieved, would indicate success on a larger scale
With performance metrics in place, you will have a better understanding of your needs. This will help you to determine what your short-term goals and objectives are, which can help to provide a roadmap for long-term sustainability. It helps keep your organization on track and your initiatives and programs focused on the bigger picture. It also assures donors that you are strategic and making a difference. In other words, your goals and objectives define what your outcomes are—your bottom line. They are the keys to unlocking funding!
- What resources do you have within your organization that could add value to a corporate partner?
Your fundraising assets are useful resources to attract donors, sponsors, and funders to your cause. The problem is that most organizations either ignore their assets or take them for granted. Be sure to read “How to Use Asset-Framing to Strengthen Nonprofit Work” for information on how to effectively frame assets.
Conduct an analysis of the assets and resources that your organization can bring to a cause marketing relationship. When creating this list, it is important to look at it from an external perspective. Ask yourself how you could benefit a corporate partner.
At the PeaceLove Foundation, we cataloged our assets when building our cause marketing and looked at everything from our connections to high network individuals, to our training, to our mental health expertise. In any partnership, both parties are bringing something to the table. As a charitable organization, what you bring to the table is most likely nonfinancial. You have intangible and tangible assets that can align with corporate partners’ charitable goals.
- What criteria should you have in place to ensure that you choose a partner who will help you achieve your goals?
As you dive deeper into building your cause marketing, be sure to carefully evaluate a company’s fit with your mission. Mission-fit makes it easier to find a suitable partner and cuts down on the negotiation as you try to find common ground.
A first step in finding the right partner is looking within. Make a list of any companies connected to your organization through board members, events, past support, or volunteers. Then look at brands your constituents, volunteers, donors, and staff members engage. Research the company’s mission statement and values to find suitable matches. If the campaign involves a product, does the product reinforce your goals? If it requires participation in an activity, is the activity accessible to customers and constituents alike?
It may be tempting to say yes to the first opportunity that comes along, but before you jump into a potential partnership, ask yourself: Is this really a good fit?
To take you through this and each step, use the workbook “How to Secure Business Partnerships for Nonprofits.” In a bid to distinguish themselves and to better serve their clients, nonprofits may struggle to broaden their service offerings, which places organizations with different core activities in competition with one another for funding. Through partnerships, we can come together to support a shared cause.
Deidre Fraser (she/her/hers) has been working with the nonprofit sector for over 10 years, from corporate philanthropy to programming and development. Deidre started her career with cause marketing and social impact strategy; implementing the processes and systems for retail brand Alex and Ani to donate over $50 Million in seven years. Currently, Deidre is the Head of Partnerships as well as an Expressive Arts Trainer for the PeaceLove Foundation. She is also the Founder of Avidli (www.avidli.com), which equips locally-led social impact organizations with the knowledge and resources needed to amplify their cause and diversify funding.