Schools are back and we can feel the suburban tsunami of relief from harassed parents. On the other side of the fence, teachers are fielding a million ‘why’ questions from curious minds.
Why is the sun called the sun? Why don’t sharks have eyebrows? Why did someone invent swear words if I’m not allowed to say them? The default answers from parents can typically include ‘ask your mum’ or ‘because I say so’. When corporate ask you Why questions you can’t fob them off so easily. They’re designed to test your credibility as a future partner and you’d better be prepared.
What are the 4 why questions that stand between you and a future corporate partnership?
Why do you want the money?
Corporates don’t usually ask this so bluntly. They’ll enquire about your future direction, big ambitions and aspirations. But the heart of the question is still there: is this a good investment for my company? Your partnership proposal may be championed by the head of HR or the marketing manager, but at some point you’ll need the CFO or CEO to sign off. They may not have the same knowledge about your non-profit and what you do, so they’ll take a cool, commercial decision. That’s when you’ll need a good answer to this question. Telling them you’ve got a funding gap or a budget blowout isn’t going to cut it. They want to know about impact and ROI. Lifeline were successful when they told corporates about the explosion in need during COVID and how their counsellors were answering a call every 15 seconds. The Smith Family inspired corporates about the growing digital divide in learning for disadvantaged school children. Connect the corporates to the big problems you’re solving and the impact you can achieve together, and you’ll get their attention.
As in, why are you approaching me and not the other 2 million businesses in this country? Everyone hates receiving spam that is not targeted to you personally but is simply an blanket email. Don’t do the same with your corporate prospects. They can tell when you’ve sent the same cold proposal to everyone. Spend time getting to know their business and be clear on why you’ve chosen them. It could be a shared geographic footprint, like Variety TAS partnering with local Huon Aquaculture or perhaps a shared audience like Beyond Blue and Steel Blue boots. Outline what you have in common and why you’ve specifically chosen to approach them.
Have you established your credibility as a future community partner? You’re competing with 60,000 other registered non-profits in Australia, all doing good work. Simply describing your own programs is fine for an individual major donor but won’t be enough for a corporate. They want to see a strong commercial proposition behind the partnership, not just a request for philanthropy. This is where a corporate credentials document differs from a case for support. The latter is all about you and your programs but the former combines the emotional inspiration of your work with some compelling business benefits for a corporate partner. It should be more about them, not you.
You want them to partner with you now, not in five years’ time. Painting a picture of the urgency behind your proposal is key to getting into their immediate budget. If you fail to outline the burning platform for why they need to support you now, you could be relegated to the back of the budget queue. Environmental organisations like WWF point to the rapidly changing climate and the loss of biodiversity. “How good were koalas’ is not something we’d ever like our children to say. Similarly child protection agencies like MacKillop cite the urgent need for thousands of carers for vulnerable children. Corporates have many demands on their time and resources. If you can answer the question of ‘why now’ you’ll have a credible case for a slice of the budget pie.
Corporates aren’t nearly as imaginative as 7 year olds with their questions. They are often comfortably predictable, which makes it easy to be fully prepared. Make sure you can answer these four questions and you’ll be ahead of the pack when you’re prospecting for new corporate partners.