The FBook

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Key Behaviors in Successful Corporate Partnerships

In change management, Discussables, Research on May 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Key behaviors of successful NPO / Corporate partnerships

Continuing our series on Corporate Philanthropy, we take a look at what the key behaviors are that we see in  nonprofits who have developed partnerships that provide a strong, reliable and renewable revenue  stream?

1. They all have a Personal Relationship with the company leaders: As a personal investment, the requirement that we build meaningful dialogue and a unified voice in our efforts to identify opportunities for partnering is essential.  A relationship with our company partners is not a mail campaign.  It’s not a sponsorship pitch.  It is the same level of personalized cultivation applied to our individual major donors.

Getting to a partnership is a process. The flow from first connection (usually a gift of some sort) through partnership generally follows this route:  Transaction —–> Relationship—–> Information——> Partnership.   The relationship traditionally begins with a transaction of some sort: a sponsorship, a membership, a donation, a grant. Capturing the interests of the corporation and appropriately acknowledging and stewarding their generosity, a relationship is developed, where information is shared that further delineates the opportunities and shared values/goals of the two parties, which leads to a partnership.

It’s essential that you get comfortable with building personal relationships for funding or partnerships with your corporate donors. It’s crazy to even have to say that, but many fundraisers we have worked with are intimidated or lack dedication to the relationship building process.  Having a personal relationship with your corporate donors is the most important thing you can do to succeed.

2. Value proposition: Your Value Proposition is a definition of the key benefits you provide to the corporation, as a potential partner. Your client base, your donor market, your organizations core values, where do you operate, what is your brand, who do you influence?  These are value positions used to negotiate what is needed- cash, people, advocacy. Your Value Proposition is not what you do. Let me say that again: VALUE PROPOSITION does NOT equal WHAT YOU DO!

As evidenced in some of the past video and case examples, Nike and others did not partner with the chosen NPO’s because of what they did. What they did was important. And the outcomes were essential to the decision. But the value proposition of those organizations was the quantitative factors they bring to the table: who do they reach? who gives to them? where are they located? what community do they serve? What does their organization represent to the community?

Taking a value inventory will be critical. You can do this internally amongst your staff in a brainstorming session, or you can hire a facilitator to help in the process. Either way, having a very solid knowledge of  your value proposition is essential to successfully identifying and selling your organization to the right corporation for the right partnership.

3. Trust:  This is huge.  We think we know about trust, but in this sense we mean total and complete transparency, clear communication, and fulfillment. Trust is built slowly over time, as a friend recently reminded me. Its not an all or nothing position and it is only bestowed upon you or anyone incrementally with some consideration and time. It is also impermanent, it can change with the tide. Your organization must provide the framework within which that trust can be built with the corporation.  It may mean sharing challenges that you normally would not be compelled or comfortable in sharing about your programs and funding. If it knocks you out of the competition for the companies attention, so be it; better to have it done now, than after you have spent considerable time, resources and energy in building up the relationship. Trust also requires promises to be fulfilled. If you said you would do something with the funding, well you better have at it and show the results.  Things do happen that not goals off course or missed, but the frequent and candid communication you are engaged in, while building trust with your corporate partner, will have taken that into account.

4. Commitment: You know what they say- In breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.  Your commitment to long term strategies requires your organization to have a vision and a strategic direction. Commitment is not chasing the money; it is building on and resourcing the programs and services essential to your success. Nonprofits who have successful corporate partnerships have mission strategies that are imbedded in their DNA, they are clear and concise and tactical. They are committed to the outcomes, no matter what.

Following these four foundational behaviors will position your organization to be prepared for a myriad of corporate funding partnerships that provide long lasting benefits and outcomes.

NEXT POST: Developing a plan for your own corporate partnership program.

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