If you are responsible for corporate fundraising for a charity, sometimes you might feel daunted when you want to approach a company. We know it. We’ve been there. You might be thinking, “why would that giant, sophisticated corporation with their expensive office want to partner with us?”
That’s when the fear comes in.
So rather than approaching them in a creative way, you send an email instead. Or maybe you meet with them, but they offer you a small donation rather a long-term partnership. Either way you are on the road to corporate fundraising disappointment.
In this blog we will share six techniques you can use to shift your perspective, transform your results and become a giant too.
1. Create your powerful partnership product
The more we work with charities to help create corporate partnerships, the more we’re convinced that your partnership product is the best place to start. It’s so tempting to want to rush out and meet companies, but you need to know what you are offering them first. Your offer is your partnership product. It’s the opportunity of partnering with you in a package that’s attractive to senior business decision makers. If you take time to create a strong product you will feel ten feet tall (like a giant!) when you share it with companies
We recommend your partnership product contains the following essential ingredients:
- Emotional value
- Commercial value
- Partnership activity
Please note, your product shouldn’t be “one-size-fits-all.” It’s more like a Saville Row suit that you can tailor for each major corporate prospect. But the overall design should be unique to your charity.
2. Schedule your prospect development time
Sometimes you might avoid approaching prospects because you are afraid you might fail. Or perhaps you’re concerned about your colleagues listening to you when you’re making prospect calls. We recommend you book prospect development time in your diary to overcome these challenges. Contacting prospects is a bit like eating Brussel sprouts during Christmas dinner. If you get them out the way first, then you can enjoy everything that comes after them so much more.
Another way to approach prospect development is to make it fun. One of our charity clients is completely embracing this approach. She writes a script and books a meeting room where she can make her prospect phone calls. Her focus and proactivity are really delivering results, because she has now secured major partnerships with her top two prospects.
3. Involve your colleagues in building your partnership product
As mentioned above, your partnership product is a vital first step to creating major corporate partnerships. When you build it, we strongly recommend you involve your colleagues. Including colleagues brings so many benefits. You get diversity of thought, so the content you create feels fresh and interesting. Also they will be on-board when it comes to pitching to prospects. And they will help you deliver when you land the partnership.
The ideal colleagues to involve are those who have a stake in corporate partnerships. Make sure this includes some people who are enthusiastic and creative. The way to involve them is to hold a brainstorm. Tell them you want their help to develop the content for your corporate partnership product. Invite them to tell stories about your beneficiaries so you generate the emotional content. And ask them to tell you what are the unique benefits that your charity could deliver for companies.
Once you have all this exciting content you can package it up into a powerful product. Then you will be ready to start identifying your ideal corporate partners.
4. Involve your colleagues and beneficiaries in meetings with companies
When you’re responsible for developing corporate partnerships, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of doing it on your own. Especially when you meet with companies. If you go on your own it’s so much simpler, because you don’t need to waste time trying to find a date that is convenient for everyone. And you save time because you don’t need to brief anyone else before hand. Right? No. Wrong!
If you go solo then the company decision makers miss out on the very people they really want to meet. They don’t want to meet just you. You’re the conduit, the facilitator. They want to meet the people who work directly with your beneficiaries so they can hear first-hand stories of how you change lives. And they want to meet your colleagues from the media team who can help them raise their profile and enhance their reputation. Companies don’t just want to partner with the corporate partnerships team, they want to partner with your whole charity.
Most of all you want to make sure that you involve a beneficiary in some way. This could be through video. Recently I was working as the interim head of corporate partnerships with a medium sized charity. We attended a meeting with a giant corporate prospect. I was feeling a bit nervous at the start of the meeting, but I grew in confidence when I reminded myself that we were properly prepared. I started with asking them what their company’s problems and priorities were. We listened attentively and took notes.
When it came to our turn to speak, we shared a video of a woman we had helped. It was an emotional and powerful story. I looked round the room and saw that people were clearly moved. It was a strong start to a very positive first meeting.
5. Learn to see companies’ problems
In his brilliant new book, “This is marketing”, Seth Godin talks about the importance of “learning to see.” In fact, the sub-title of the book says, “You can’t be seen until you learn to see.” This skill is especially important for creating major corporate partnerships, because you want to learn to see companies’ problems. Like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you will get.
You especially want to look out for companies that have problems that a partnership with your charity can help solve. As someone summed it up so succinctly, “who has an itch that you can help scratch?” When you find those companies, they could be excellent candidates for your list of top prospects.
A great example of a charity who formed a partnership in this way, is Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care (PTHC) and their partnership with Bridges Estate Agents. One of the biggest problems for Bridges is that estate agents have a poor reputation, so people might find it hard to trust them. PTHC was perfectly placed to help with this problem, because the catchment area of both organisations is almost identical and the charity’s cause is especially powerful. Also Bridge’s sale boards are heart shaped, but there is no particular reason for it. The partnership with PTHC gave them a reason. This is PTHC’s biggest ever corporate partnership and it should last a long time, because there is no way that Bridges will leave them, for fear of one of their competitors taking their place.
6. Make the company the hero
Now that you have grown to giant status and you can look the company in the eye, the most powerful thing you can do is make them the hero. This might feel strange at first, because so may people in your charity tell you about the incredible work you do. This suggests the charity is the hero and the company is the bank account who pays the hero’s expenses.
But the reality is that your charity cannot solve your problem on its own, otherwise they would already have solved it! You need major corporate partners to help you solve it. Seeing the company as the hero is a 180° shift in your perspective. And it changes everything.
Recently we helped a charity build a pitch for a giant corporate prospect. When they showed it to us, we quite liked it, but something wasn’t right. Throughout the presentation they spoke about themselves first and then the company second. This suggested that the company was less important. We gave them the feedback and they took it on board. They swapped around the presentation, so the company was the hero. It worked! The company loved the pitch and now they are partnering with the charity.
We hope that these six techniques help you create the giant corporate partnerships your charity deserves. Your charity has enormous value that you can offer to companies. Especially if you package it into a powerful product, involve your colleagues, schedule your prospect development, approach the companies who need you the most and you make them the hero.
If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.