In today’s business world, it’s essential to create authentic and valuable partnerships. Corporations want to align with innovative, mission-driven nonprofits that can help meet their corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability goals. At the same time, nonprofits and mission-driven organizations look to pair with corporations that can offer brand visibility and help make investments in their unique causes. A creative partnership should be mutually beneficial and help both organizations achieve their overall business objectives.
Here are three ways that nonprofit organizations can leverage corporate relationships to maximize creative partnerships.
1. Address WIIFM. Successful partnerships require a two-way street. By addressing WIIFM (that is, what’s in it for me?), you can make sure both parties stay committed to the partnership. Start by asking the corporate partner what success looks like to them. Does the partner value meeting mission objectives rather than earning media coverage, or both? Will the results of this partnership be included in the corporation’s annual report? Knowing how the partner defines success upfront should help dictate the mechanics of the relationship.
While addressing WIIFM, it’s also good to share goals and past successes. If your team has led a successful co-branded marketing campaign with a similar corporate partner that yielded an increase in donors or drove additional customers, share those successes and lessons learned so that your partner finds comfort in your ability to get results.
2. Drive media and money with communications. Corporate partners value being seen as socially responsible, which may be one of the reasons they are partnering with your brand. The best way to drive media attention and ultimately money toward the partnership is to collaborate with your communications teams early and often. Allow your communications colleagues to find ways to highlight the social impact of the partnership as well as the business goals to help drive media attention. The more consumers are aware of the partnership, the more both parties reap the benefits.
According to the 2015 Cone Global CSR Study, “the leading ways consumers want to get engaged with companies’ CSR efforts are actions tied directly to their wallets, with nine-in-10 just as likely to purchase (89 percent) as to boycott (90 percent) based on companies’ responsible practices. However, consumers view their roles in creating social and environmental change as extending well beyond the cash register. Despite their good intentions, the leading ways consumers actually engage with companies remain transactional, as shopping (63 percent), donating (61 percent) and boycotting a product (53 percent) are the top reported behaviors taken over the last 12 months.”
Brand loyalty here extends from the corporate entity to the partner it is associated with. That could mean more loyal consumers for the corporate partner and more donors and awareness for the nonprofit.
3. Use data to quantify success. Once a campaign is over, have something to show for it. Results can include media placements, social media stats and the number of consumers and donors who followed the call to action. When you have the data, conduct a formal post-campaign debrief with the partner to go over the results and share highlights. This is also a good time to acknowledge any setbacks or challenges that your team is prepared to address in time for the next campaign (hint: you want to talk about preparing for the next campaign, even before they mention it).
Remember, partners love being seen as socially responsible, and this doesn’t stop at the end of the campaign period. Consider submitting the partnership for an industry- related award, share a post-campaign news release or create infographics with campaign results to share on social media. Anything you can do to add icing on top of a well-executed partnership engagement will be helpful to seal the deal for the next time the corporation is looking for an organization to support.
Creating meaningful partnerships that yield high returns is a great strategy to meet business objectives, enhance brand value and open your organization up to a wider demographic of donors. So, the next time you feel the urge to shy away from taking that corporate relationship a step further, ignore the butterflies in your gut and take the first step to creating a fulfilling collaboration that feeds both organizations’ needs.