Many nonprofits turn to corporate partnerships to reach wider audiences and enhance revenue. In 2018, global partnership consultancy IEG projected corporate sponsorship spending to surpass $24.2 billion in North America and $65.8 billion worldwide. These projections suggest a major opportunity for nonprofits, which can quickly capitalize on a partnership with either a corporate sponsor or a combination of business entities.

However, the challenge for nonprofits is convincing corporations to agree to the partnership and recognize the business value in such an alliance. Recent reports show that the majority of charities have difficulty establishing strong corporate partnerships. To demonstrate the ways in which a partnership would prove valuable, nonprofits must first understand the benefits to both parties, and then craft a strong business proposal.

The Advantages for Both Parties

What is your organization’s value proposition? It may not be enough to merely sell your vision and mission to a potential sponsor. Instead, tell the corporation what your nonprofit can bring to the table, such as advertising the corporation’s services or products and creating new marketing opportunities.

From the onset, outline how your nonprofit’s message will position their company as a good corporate citizen. In the for-profit sector, there has been a particular shift in demonstrating corporate social responsibility, or CSR, as it has been shown to improve the bottom line. In fact, research by Nonprofits Source reported 90 percent of corporations indicated that partnering with nonprofit organizations has enhanced their brand. In the same report, another 89 percent of corporations believe partnerships leverage their ability to better support their communities. It’s evident that partnerships have the potential to strengthen both parties’ reputations, brands and credibility by exhibiting community responsibility.

Another advantage for both entities is expanding consumer reach. It is important to align – or complement – your organization’s demographic with your potential sponsor’s customer base, as this will ensure synchronicity from the beginning of the alliance. The partnership should make logical sense to both parties’ target audiences, such as offering new corporate-branded sporting equipment to a school district you serve. This will lead to greater alignment in your shared goals as fundraising strategies are eventually developed and rolled out.

Are You Ready for a Corporate Partner?

After recognizing the ways in which a partnership can be mutually beneficial, examine whether your organization is at the right stage for a corporate sponsor. While the opportunities may seem enticing, your organization must gauge whether the partnership will be worthwhile. Not all nonprofits have the time or resources needed to sustain long-lasting relationships with corporate partners, or to develop events based on the corporation’s financial plan.

As you weigh your options, ask your board members if you are truly ready for a corporate partner by considering the following questions:

  • Have you ever worked with a corporation before? Can you leverage that existing network or use their testimonial to engage new corporations?
  • Are your competitors aligned with corporate sponsors? In other words, what are you up against in securing a partnership?
  • Can your staff maintain a working relationship with the potential corporate partner in a way that’s mutually beneficial?
  • How will you measure the success and value of the partnership?
  • Are there any prospective corporate sponsors who align with existing sponsors you have? Are there opportunities for easy cross-promotions?
  • If you are a member of a civic organization, is it possible to reach out to a corporation within the group?

Operating with a spirit of collaboration, cooperation and shared advocacy, nonprofits can capitalize on corporate partnerships in a manner that improves revenue and community engagement. After gauging whether your organization is prepared for this type of alliance, you can make an informed decision, develop a proposal and secure a partnership that will result in a lasting, successful relationship.

Do you have questions on whether corporate sponsorships make sense for your nonprofit? Please contact Henry Martin at hmartin@dbllp.com.