Why Corporate Partnerships Are Everyone’s Business
I have a saying… to be honest I’m not sure if it’s mine, or if I heard some clever person say it, but nevertheless, it takes a whole organisation to deliver a corporate partnerships strategy.
Sure as the Corporate Fundraiser, you will take the lead on the majority of tasks, but honestly, without the support of your entire organisation (from Board to volunteers) your strategy will never reach the heights it could if your entire team got behind you.
So, what are the roles that others in your organisation can play, and how can you help them see their part in the big picture?
One thing that every highly donor and partner-centric organisation has in common, is a culture of fundraising on their Board. Ever heard of the Give, Get or Get Off concept? There is absolutely evidence to show that Board leadership in fundraising is critical to the future of your organisation’s ability to be successful.
- Is your Board fundraising? Here is a sample of what that could look like for your organisation?
- Are they actively thanking your partners, sponsors and donors?
- Are they helping open doors to new potential partners and facilitating introductions?
- Are they helping sign letters and cards?
- Are they forwarding emails to help ensure they reach the decision-makers within their networks?
- Are they selling tickets to your events, gala balls etc?
- Are they inviting guests and friends along to your events?
- Are they buying tickets to your events?
- Are they prepared to lead a tour around your facilities, programs etc where appropriate?
- Are they hosting receptions, informal gatherings to open their networks to your organisation?
- Are they sharing your social posts, tagging your partners and giving them shout outs?
- Members of our 12-month course receive a Corporate Partnerships Board Expectation Agreement to help them with supporting their Board to understand
Another layer that is vital to a collaborative, efficient and sustainable partnerships program is ensuring transparent communication amongst your team. From office and membership staff to programs and finance, everyone will need to be involved during various stages of implementing your strategy.
A super simple way to ensure that corporate partnerships are not seen as something that just happens ‘over there’ in your organisation, you should make them a standing agenda item at your weekly or regular team meetings.
At the very beginning of the process when you are looking to create a plan to engage corporate partners, gathering the team together and having a brainstorming with them is invaluable. When I work with an organisation as a partnerships broker, one of the first things I do is make time to meet with every team member (and Board Director if I can!) and ask them if they were in my shoes, which brands would they be approaching for a partnership and why. Over the years, I’ve discovered that everybody has a secret sponsorship-seeker inside them. Doing this kind of reconnaissance is important for 3 reasons.
It helps people understand the role of corporate partnerships in your organisation.
It shows you what the internal level of appetite for and understanding of corporate partnerships is.
It uncovers some very creative and ‘out of the box’ thinking
The other area of your team that is super important when it comes to partnerships, is your program staff, or those in service delivery. A key part of really ensuring that you have engaged partners that love everything about you is to make sure you are creating and sharing stories about your impact. Your programs team are best placed to get hold of those great stories for you. Make sure they know how much you value their role in this process.
A STEWARDSHIP PLAN
Just as looking after your donors is vital to the success of your fundraising strategy, you need a plan for looking after your corporate partners too.
Many hands make light work, but too many fingers in the pie can make things messy. When it comes to sponsorship delivery, at some point different people within your organisation will need to be involved – your IT person, social media team, marketing, events, your CEO – and of course, they might all be the one person. You. Just make sure that when you secure a sponsor that you create a sponsorship delivery schedule outlining all the things you promised and who will be responsible for delivering what. Everyone needs to know what their role is and be clear about timeframes and any anomalies that inevitably arise.
The old adage that it’s cheaper to keep customers that go out and find new ones is the same with corporate partners. Especially with such unprecedented competition in the marketplace.
The final part of the stewardship process is thanking and reporting back to your partners. Make sure that you agree upfront when you will be reporting on the partnership – is it quarterly, annually, 4 weeks after an event?
The final word I want to have on stewardship is to think ‘impact, impact, impact’. The ONE thing that makes your organisation different to all the other ways a brand can invest its marketing budget is that you are a mission-driven organisation and you can help their brand image, customers and employees engage and be part of a story that is bigger than them. So don’t make your reports all about where their logo was splashed around, make sure you are talking about how much better you are doing as a result of their support. Measure it. Are you feeding more people, engaging in bigger research, reaching more people, rehabilitating more habitat? Share your story – the more emotionally engaged they are in how THEY are helping you reach your mission, the more engaged they will be in creating transformational change.
Just remember, it takes a whole organisation to deliver a corporate partnerships strategy. You are the master negotiator – make sure you keep communicating and keeping everyone excited about the journey!