When you approach a set of traffic lights do you see an amber light as a signal to slow down or an incentive to hit the accelerator? During the COVID-19 crisis we’ve all been waiting for a clear green light to get going on normal life. But the new normal is already here and whilst we’ve been stuck at the lights, corporate partnerships have been busy racing ahead. Before we get left behind, we need to embrace the new normal and think about what we need to stop, start and accelerate to realise the full potential of corporate partnerships.
Stop putting baby in a corner, as they say in the movies. It’s been tempting for many non-profit organisations to put corporate partnerships in the too hard basket or view them as a marginal area of interest while the main activity centres around direct mail or face to face. But the recent survey of the Coronavirus Impact on Fundraising, conducted by a group of specialist fundraising agencies including Stellar Partnerships, showed that corporate partnerships are the stand-out performer. Latest results show a median growth in income of 43% from corporate partnerships. Not every organisation has a corporate partnerships program, but the ones who do are reaping massive benefits from their strongest relationships stepping up in this crisis.
One of the key factors that have traditionally held back corporate partnerships is the silo nature of a charity’s organisational structure. Fundraisers speak a different language to programs people and corporate partnerships managers stand apart from other forms of fundraising. A recent insightful article talked of the conflict generated by the different cultures in a non-profit organisation. However, the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis has forced organisations to adapt and break down the usual barriers to solve the many unforeseen challenges. By getting the right people at the table to work on big issues together, it’s been a great opportunity to stop perpetuating the silos and create a collaborative approach to corporate partnerships. Charities that have taken a ‘whole of organisation’ approach to corporate partnerships, like The Smith Family, are reaping enormous benefits despite the economic environment.
Start thinking about how you can offer corporate partners a broader experience and enhanced connections to your cause. Many non-profits have been relying on events as the primary vehicle to connect, but we can see from recent survey results that event income has been devastated by the current COVID environment and will have significant ongoing challenges due to health restrictions. But did your corporate partners love the event because of your organisation or because they just loved the idea of a Kokoda Trek, mammoth cycle ride or the chance to get together with colleagues over morning tea? Charities will need to think about offering a range of meaningful ways for corporate partners and their employees, suppliers and networks to experience the work you do and why you do it. By focusing simply on the cash value of corporate partnerships, you’re implicitly telling the corporate partners to back off and let your organisation do the good stuff. Whether it’s through a different approach to events or some creative use of technology, start letting your corporate partners get closer and don’t keep all of those inspiring experiences to yourself. Then you’ll have a better understanding of how events add to your overall strategy, rather than relying on them as standalone fundraising activities.
Start leveraging the superpowers of corporate partnership managers and tap into their deep well of creativity and resilience to find new ways of engaging corporate partners. Fight MND have been unable to run their signature Big Freeze event so have pivoted to get their corporate partners to sell their beanies and raise income and awareness a different way. When McDonalds were unable to sell the same volume of product and raise income for Ronald McDonald House Charities, they leveraged their drive through services to offer basic household staples like bread and milk and ensure all income was directed to the charities.
You need to accelerate your thinking about corporate partnerships. Charities need to move away from the old paradigm of corporate ‘philanthropy’ and sponsorship towards partnerships that are strategically aligned and impactful. Corporates are rebuilding their operations and rethinking their whole organisations as a result of this crisis. Your charity needs to be nimble enough to adapt and offer a corporate partner some solutions to the spectrum of problems that society is facing.
The new normal is going to be competitive- both for corporate partners and consumers. Just as corporates are fighting for a share of the consumer’s wallet, your charity needs to have strong and compelling reasons for a corporate to partner with you. A cookie-cutter proposal just won’t cut the mustard, so you’ll need to accelerate your preparation for new partnerships and do it now. Coles are about to review all of their community partnerships with the intent of narrowing the list to charity partners that are truly aligned and delivering maximum impact. As a number of corporates are likely to follow suit, you’ll need to ensure you’re in the best position possible.
Some simple things will help your charity adapt to the new normal in corporate partnerships, but you don’t have time to waste. If you’d like to know more about adapting your corporate partnerships approach, then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and book your FREE 30min consultation.