Corporate partnerships can often be perceived as a necessary but inconvenient part of nonprofit fundraising, project management, and marketing.
Amid programming and fundraising, human resources, and systems development, the micro-goals on your organization’s to-do list are endless, which may leave your partnership agreements feeling a bit flat.
The reality is that thoughtful partnerships can be a powerful and dynamic addition to the movement toward your mission. By giving intentional thought to the ongoing strategy of your corporate partnerships, you can help evolve your partnerships from transactional to transformational.
Good Scout Senior Strategist Janelle Hahn provides high-level tips for building partnerships that amplify your message and ensure maximum impact for nonprofits partnering with corporations and their counterparts.
Defining a Transformational Corporate Partnership
When time and resources are limited, jumping on any opportunity that seems to align with your nonprofit’s mission can be tempting. But ultimately, transformational partnerships take time to find and develop; your team must be willing to put in the effort to establish unions that offer more than a check toward your fundraising goals.
“A partnership between a corporation and nonprofit needs to be built upon intentional and authentic roots,” Hahn explained. “Partnerships should not only provide financial investment but should also drive mutually beneficial impact.”
So what does a transformational partnership look like? Hahn points out that the benefits for both parties go beyond ordinary financial support. “The nonprofit should benefit from thought leadership, executive/employee engagement, board support, brand visibility, and more. The corporation should reap benefits like greater customer loyalty, heightened employee retention, and improved culture.”
These tangible assets are simply a few examples of strong partnerships between nonprofits and corporations; they may differ depending on your industry, mission, and both organizations’ history. But spending the time navigating potential partnerships can create many opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible (or, at the very least, wouldn’t be as impactful for either partner).
Transformational Partnerships Support Long-Term Growth
Many nonprofit organizations that are struggling to see success in their corporate partnerships mistakenly try to solve the issue by seeking new or additional corporate funding. But the solution is rarely found by finding new prospects or asking current partners for more money. Instead, focusing on the sustainable quality of existing partnerships is optimal.
Questions to ask yourself about your existing corporate partnerships:
- How are our organizational missions, culture, and values aligned?
- What core values do we share?
- What value do we provide for the corporate partner?
- What value do they provide for us?
- Do we communicate and engage frequently, continuously understanding one another’s goals and priorities?
- Is there potential for the partnership to evolve and change over time?
- What type of return on investment do we see? Is it balanced?
- Does this partnership further our impact strategy?
“Strategic partnerships unite a corporation and a nonprofit as an extension of one another’s culture, values, and brand,” Hahn said. “Transformation moves the needle, driving social impact. It changes lives and communities, while bringing invaluable outcomes to both parties.”
When partnerships have a strong foundation built on shared alignment and objectives, there is a natural movement toward your organization’s north star. But it is not something that can be expedited. “Transformation takes time. It takes the effort to find a shared alignment, an effort to identify mutual goals and objectives. However, it is worth it,” Hahn said.
Ensuring Mutually Transformational Partnerships
Building transformational partnerships depends on many moving pieces within your organization. It is not tied to marketing alone, and understanding the health of your nonprofit—its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth and expansion—is crucial to creating corporate partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
“It requires a deep dialogue, probing, research, patience, and innovation to build transformational partnerships,” Hahn said. But putting in the continual effort to ensure you’re getting the most out of it is crucial to maximizing its impact on your organization’s trajectory.
Putting in the effort upfront is pointless if you don’t revisit your partnership health regularly, analyzing how they support your overall strategy and continue to move you toward your north star.
Transformational partnerships are a journey. In the same way that our personal relationships require regular communication and effort to grow and evolve, relationships between corporations and nonprofits necessitate consistent engagement and sacrifice to reap the benefits.
At Good Scout Group, we use detailed analyses to help you identify pain points and establish partnerships that align with your strategic direction. Learn more about maximizing your organization’s potential by contacting our team.