More Than Money: How Nonprofits and Corporate Sponsors Can Double Their Impact Working Together. There was a time when corporate sponsorship of a nonprofit invoked an image of executives posing for a stilted photo holding a gigantic cardboard check. Those days are long gone.
Today, corporate sponsors are looking for more than logo placement and a press release quote. At a time when businesses are being held more accountable than ever by both customers and employees to engage in social activism, nonprofit partnerships need to be intentional, showing tangible results.
Nonprofits, meanwhile, always need funding and a giant cardboard check will seldom be turned away (as long as there’s a real one behind it). But they also need ways to amplify their mission, skilled volunteers to support organizational growth and other resources, many of which can be provided by a corporate sponsor.
With both sides of the equation looking for a tailored, fruitful arrangement, the possibilities inherent in a synchronous partnership are unlimited. By focusing on three key factors, a business can find the right nonprofit, a nonprofit can find the right sponsor, and both can contribute to a successful
- Alignment of values and mission
First and foremost, a nonprofit and its corporate sponsors must align on the reason behind their partnership and the goals they hope to achieve through working together. Collaborating with like-minded partners is always a strong predictor of success. But how can this alignment be assured before entering into a project or partnership?
For nonprofits, it starts with research. Through due diligence, nonprofit organizers can learn what pillars of community support are most important to a potential corporate sponsor. Once they meet with that company, the nonprofit can educate their leadership or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) representatives on the kind of work they do and demonstrate how that work aligns with the company’s core values. In short, a sponsorship proposal designed to highlight the synergies between their two entities gets more attention.
Likewise, CSR teams on the corporate level need to research to find nonprofits who can not only use the skills and resources they have to offer but who also align with the core values of the company. A business committed to improving education, for example, would do well to align with an organization that brings local experts into schools rather than, say, an international relief fund.
- Openness to non-financial contributions
No two ways around it, funding matters. So much so that, ironically, nonprofits are often so focused on raising money for the services they are providing, they are unable to cover other imperatives. Aligning with a corporate sponsor can provide access to in-kind donations of goods and resources. Skilled volunteers may be able to lend a hand and may also become enthusiastic ambassadors for your organization, enlisting more of their coworkers to join them. Providing people power in the form of skilled volunteers is just one way corporate sponsors can contribute beyond financial donations. Another is helping to spread the mission of the nonprofit through internal and external company communications, networking relationships or other means. Company executives will often join the board of a nonprofit as a way to help from the inside, lending business expertise and guidance toward the mission. On the sponsor side, packaging up any or all sponsorship elements can create an attractive CSR program, something today’s employees and job candidates value.
- Clarity on expectations and goals
Any partnership will work better when all parties involved are clear on expectations and responsibilities. For a nonprofit and corporate sponsor, this means agreeing upfront on what each is looking to get out of the collaboration and how those goals will be reached from a tactical standpoint. If corporate volunteers are going to be onsite for a nonprofit event, for example, parameters need to be clear on everything from when and where they need to report, to a detailed explanation of how their skills will be utilized. On a larger scale, a corporate CSR contact may need to outline deadlines for their nonprofit partner to ensure proper verbiage and logo usage is in place ahead of any announcements or production of campaign materials.
Depending on the size of the business and/or the nonprofit, a key communications factor is understanding that there may be a language disconnect to work around. Using too much corporate-speak with a small nonprofit, for example, might cause confusion and potentially delay a project. Likewise, a nonprofit may need to educate their sponsor on their area of expertise, why it matters and who it impacts. By learning to speak each other’s language, both sides of the collaboration will be able to get more out of, and contribute more to, their work together.
Now more than ever, companies are looking to make a difference, and nonprofits need both monetary and in-kind contributions to support their missions. There’s never been a better time to combine forces; by strategizing the right partnership and committing to the work needed, both can watch their goals become realities, together.
Written by Sima Parekh.
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