In today’s nonprofit landscape, building strong corporate partnerships has become a game-changer for organizations aiming to make a lasting impact. Collaborations between mission-focused nonprofits and philanthropic-minded businesses hold power to produce exponential results and growth for each party involved.
In this guide, we aim to highlight the transformative nature of nonprofit-corporate partnerships—and explore the ways in which organizations like yours can benefit from their highest potential. We’ll cover the following:
- Why Corporate Partnerships Matter
- Finding the Right Partner for Your Nonprofit
- Building a Win-Win Corporate Partnership
- Nurturing and Maintaining the Partner Relationship
- Successful Corporate Partnerships to Be Inspired By
- Free Customizable Template for Corporate Partner Outreach
Ready to learn more about optimizing your organization’s corporate partnership strategy? Let’s start with the basics—and why this matters in the first place.
Keep reading to find out!
1. Why Corporate Partnerships Matter
As a nonprofit professional, you likely understand the importance of maximizing operations with limited resources and tight budgets. First and foremost, corporate partnerships allow organizations like yours to benefit from increased access to…
- New funding streams (through sponsorship revenue, matching gifts, community grants, and more)
- In-kind support (of product donations, advertising slots, meeting spaces, etc.)
- Free and low-cost services (such as legal, marketing, consulting, or accounting)
And the benefits don’t end there, either! Partnering with well-known and reputable businesses can also enable an organization to increase its own credibility, market to new audiences with growing reach, and enhance its brand image overall.
All in all, by harnessing the power of these partnerships, nonprofits (yours included!) can strengthen their sustainability, effectiveness, and ability to create positive change in the world.
2. Finding the Right Partner for Your Nonprofit
Identifying corporate partnerships can be a tricky task. With so many companies out there to choose from, how do you know where to start?
When you’re ready to begin the search for the perfect corporate partner (or partners), we recommend prioritizing the following factors:
- Shared values and mission alignment — A good corporate partner aligns with your nonprofit’s core values and mission. Both organizations should have a common understanding of the primary issues they aim to address with the partnership and a shared commitment to making a positive impact in those areas.
- Reputation and credibility — The companies you work with should have a positive reputation, high levels of credibility, and a track record of ethical business practices. This way, the association enhances your organization’s reputation and helps build trust among stakeholders, donors, beneficiaries, and the overall community—rather than raising questions about your nonprofit’s integrity.
- Established philanthropic efforts — Companies that have previously demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility, and specifically, nonprofit support, are likely to be some of your best prospective partners. After all, you know that they care about giving back—and working with your organization to do so can be an excellent opportunity. To identify these businesses, check out free lists of companies that are known to donate to nonprofits. Or look into your own database and see which businesses have supported your cause in the past through matching gifts, volunteer grants, and more.
- Common audiences — Finally, looking for companies to partner with which you already have a lot in common can help get your foot in the door in an easy and effective way. For example, consider whether your donors might overlap with their staff! To do so, we recommend enlisting your workplace giving tool (like Double the Donation’s 360MatchPro) or other database software to identify the companies that employ sizeable segments of your supporters. Then, reach out to them to pitch a sponsorship with a hook that highlights your existing connection through your shared audiences.
Before jumping into any corporate relationship, it’s important to take the time to research a potential company and ensure it aligns with your partnership criteria. Being a bit picky from the start can help ensure you’re devoting time and resources to the best possible corporate partners!
We recommend making a wishlist of all the companies you’d be interested in partnering with, then continually narrowing it down based on the measures outlined above.
3. Building a Win-Win Corporate Partnership
We previously highlighted a few key advantages of corporate partnerships from the nonprofit’s perspective. But in order to establish a truly effective nonprofit-corporate relationship, it’s important to highlight a mutually beneficial offering that addresses the goals and needs of the company as well.
A corporate partnership is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and a win-win partnership incentivizes active participation from both sides. For example, different companies might be better suited for different partner initiatives—such as cause marketing campaigns, workplace giving programs, event sponsorships, and more.
And the wins on the corporate side can be extensive! This might include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Advertising space in the organization’s online and print marketing materials;
- Networking and relationship-building opportunities, such as hosting a booth at a nonprofit event;
- Access to exclusive data and audience insights regarding the organization’s supporter base, philanthropic trends, and targeted marketing strategies;
- Enhanced brand reputation amongst consumers who seek charitable-minded companies with which to spend their dollars;
- Elevated employee engagement and workplace morale, where individuals increasingly prefer to work for companies whose philanthropic efforts they can be proud of (this is especially vital within employee giving programs like matching gifts and volunteer grants);
- And more!
The better you can craft your sponsorship plan to suit a corporate partner’s objectives and goals, the more companies will be willing and eager to work with you. Still, be prepared to receive some “no’s,” but know that in the end, you’ll be able to establish the perfect opportunities catered to your organization, your partner, and each of your needs.
4. Nurturing and Maintaining the Partner Relationship
The most effective (and high-ROI) partnerships between companies and nonprofits on both sides are those that last beyond a single event, project, or experience. But in order to establish such a strong alliance, it’s important to develop a plan for nurturing, maintaining, and continually developing an ongoing relationship.
We recommend implementing the following practices in your partnership strategy:
- Regular communication — Any relationship thrives on communication, and those between nonprofits and corporations are no different. As you build the foundation for your partnership, you’ll want to establish and maintain open lines of two-way communication. Consider scheduling regular check-ins, provide updates on the progress of joint initiatives, and discuss any challenges or opportunities that arise. And remember: transparency is key!
- Varied opportunities for involvement — Be sure that your corporate partners know about the many ways they can support your organization through ongoing partnerships! If a company agrees to sponsor an event, continue to share exciting opportunities to maintain its support after the fact. This might include matching employee gifts to your organization, organizing an employee volunteer experience, or enlisting co-marketing efforts to carry on driving value for both teams.
- Appreciation and recognition — It’s important that you show appreciation for your corporate partners’ contributions and support. Acknowledge their efforts publicly through social media posts, on your website, in press releases, and throughout other marketing channels. Plus, don’t forget to express gratitude in personal interactions as well—and continue to highlight the impact their partnership has made on your organization’s mission.
- Ongoing evaluation and feedback — Encourage corporate partners to provide their input on the partnership experience, progress toward shared goals, and more. Seek feedback concerning your partnership’s strengths, areas for improvement, and even future opportunities. Then, be sure to incorporate their input into your plans to allow for continuous development and refinement of the relationship over time.
When you integrate these tried-and-true tips into your nonprofit’s partnership strategy, you can set your team up to foster strong, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationships with its corporate partners. Just like it’s more cost-effective to steward one-time donors into recurring supporters, it’s extremely valuable to retain corporate partners alongside your organization as well.
Successful Corporate Partnerships to Be Inspired By
Corporate partnerships have been successful strategies by nonprofits and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Check out a few examples of powerful relationships that brought substantial results for both parties involved.
As you read, consider which elements of these inspirational case studies can be applied to your own organization’s partnership plan!
One of our favorite examples of a mutually beneficial partnership is that of the medical research organization, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and science and technology innovator, Danaher. Prior to rolling out a widely accessible matching gift program for its employees, Danaher crafted a custom matching gift partnership with LLS.
Through this initiative, Danaher leadership encouraged team members to support LLS and its fundraising endeavors throughout the duration of the campaign. By its conclusion, the company matched employee donations to the cause, ultimately exceeding its fundraising goal by over 150%. And in the years since, Danaher has grown not only its matching gift program (now matching gifts to nearly all nonprofit groups) but also its relationship with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society team.
Having contributed more than $1 million to Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to empowering women in computer science, Logitech aims to help close the gender gap in the STEM field through this powerful corporate partnership. In addition to funds, Logitech also offers free coding programs, summer immersion camps, clubs, and other resources to girls across the United States looking to step into the technology sector.
And the partnership works particularly well, thanks to the significant overlap in mission, values, and audiences between the two teams.
For over 40 years, Disney has partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant the wishes of children with critical illnesses. In fact, one out of every two wishes is a Disney-related one—typically involving a no-cost visit to Disney theme parks and a meet-and-greet with favorite characters.
Other offerings include resort vacations, cruises, shopping sprees, studio visits, sports-themed experiences, Marvel adventures, and more.
(RED) is a nonprofit organization spearheading the fight to end HIV and AIDS across the world. This group is known for having a widespread network of corporate relationships, with one of the most well-known instances being its ongoing partnership with Apple.
Over the course of 16+ years working together, Apple and (RED) have raised nearly $270 million through the sale of (RED)-branded Apple products. This includes iPhones, Apple watches, accessories, and more, with a portion of each purchase going directly toward the global fund to eradicate AIDS.
Feeding America, one of the most prominent hunger-relief organizations in the United States, joined forces with ALDI, a popular discount supermarket chain. Through this partnership, ALDI supports Feeding America by co-hosting cause marketing efforts, funding disaster relief, incentivizing employee engagement, and donating significant amounts of food and funds to the organization’s large network of food banks.
Free Customizable Template for Corporate Partner Outreach
Ready to get started building your organization’s corporate partner strategy? Feel free to dive in with our free outreach template. Just be sure to customize the message to reflect your nonprofit, the intended partner, and the value of the specific partner offering.
Subject: Exploring a Win-Win Partnership Opportunity
Dear [BUSINESS CONTACT NAME],
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing on behalf of [NONPROFIT], a nonprofit organization dedicated to [MISSION AND IMPACT OVERVIEW]. We believe in the power of collaboration and are interested in exploring a potential partnership with [BUSINESS] to create a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship.
Upon researching [BUSINESS] and learning more about your commitment to [SHARED VALUES], we noticed striking similarities between our organizations. Notably, we share key audiences and have discovered that a number of your employees have shown tremendous support for our cause in the past. We are grateful for their personal donations, engagement in employee giving programs, participation in fundraising events, and more.
We envision a partnership that leverages the strengths of both entities to make a positive impact in our community. By joining forces, we can create a win-win situation that benefits [BUSINESS], [NONPROFIT], and the causes we care about.
Potential partnership opportunities include:
- Event Sponsorship: Partnering on fundraising events or community initiatives, maximizing the impact and outreach of our joint efforts. We have an upcoming event planned for [DATE], which you can learn more about here: [EVENT PAGE URL].
- Employee Engagement Programs: Collaborating on initiatives that promote employee volunteerism, skills-based volunteering, or matching gift programs. This will not only enhance employee morale but also create a sense of purpose and fulfillment within your workplace.
- Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns: Co-developing campaigns that align your brand with our mission, raising awareness and driving consumer engagement while supporting our programs.
We believe that this partnership has the potential to make a significant difference in our community and beyond. We would be delighted to discuss the possibilities further and explore how our organizations can create a unique and impactful partnership.
Please let us know if you would be interested in arranging a meeting or a call to discuss this opportunity in more detail. We are open to tailoring a partnership that aligns with your company’s objectives and goals.
Thank you for considering this invitation. We look forward to the possibility of working together and making a lasting impact on the causes we hold dear. Feel free to reach out to me at [EMAIL] or [PHONE NUMBER] to discuss this further.
The value of corporate partnerships for organizations like yours should not be underestimated. By forging mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded businesses, your nonprofit team can leverage a previously untapped wealth of funding, resources, and marketing power that can bring your efforts to new heights.
So now it’s time to get started! Take steps to identify corporate partnership opportunities within your network of support—and begin reaching out to companies that share your values and are aligned with your mission.
Best of luck!