Have you ever been in a plane that hit turbulence and noticed that you never hear much from the flight deck? You get the urgent ping of the seatbelt sign but little else. A Qantas pilot once told me that the captain is busy focusing on keeping the plane in the air and will save the niceties of passenger broadcasts until she’s stabilised the ship. The cabin crew are the ones keeping the passengers calm and secure during the turbulence.
It probably feels a lot like that for corporate partnerships managers in non-profits at the moment. During the last few months, the CEOs, boards and leadership of charities have been focused on crisis management and existential threats. But now is absolutely the right time for leadership to switch the plane to autopilot for a while and help manage critical relationships with corporate partners.
- Get hands on with existing relationships
Charities who are thriving during the current crisis are the ones who have made deep investments in managing their existing corporate partnerships. It is more valuable to preserve a relationship for long term value than continually acquire new ones. That approach led to the CEO of Beyond Blue and their GM of Fundraising to make personal calls to each of their corporate partners as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Not only were they able to make connections at the most senior level, but they demonstrated how much the partnerships were valued by Beyond Blue. That commitment at all levels of the organisation enabled Beyond Blue to retain all of their existing corporate partners who were due to renew their arrangements. Sometimes, the pilot of the plane needs to step back into the cabin and that time is now. Have your briefed your CEO on your current partners and asked them to get involved?
2. Mobilise other staff to offer the right support
Corporate partnership managers are a talented and versatile bunch of people, but they can’t do everything. Charities are usually divided into different silos of responsibility with different areas of focus. When a crisis occurs, it falls to the CEO and leadership team to re-prioritise and ensure that the corporate partnerships team has everything it needs for success. That means mobilising the right expertise from across different teams to secure and support valuable corporate partnerships. Leadership can refocus resources and break down barriers to corporate partnership success. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre provides a great example of strong leadership driving fast responses to address the urgent needs of their clients. Within a short space of time the team had mobilised to launch an emergency appeal, reached out to corporate partners to source vital support and created a completely new method of delivery to the needs of their asylum seeker clients. If you need help to break down silos and mobilise key colleagues to support partnerships, have you sought help from your leadership?
3. Create leads and opportunities for new partnerships
The corporate partnership environment is becoming more competitive, so it’s important to start actively creating opportunities for new partnerships. Corporates are making important decisions on where they will commit scarcer resources, so your charity will need CEOs, leaders and boards to be ramping up involvement in developing partnership leads and nurturing relationships at the highest level possible. Not only will it shorten the time to partnership success, but it will enable a much more strategic dialogue about the type of partnership and the level of value you’re looking for. Have you approached your CEO or board chair to help with new introductions yet?
The recent months have given us plenty of examples where the active engagement of leadership in corporate partnerships has been critical to preserving existing relationships and opening up new opportunities. You can see how organisations like Beyond Blue, The Smith Family and Royal Flying Doctors have secured increased commitments and new support from partners such as Austereo, Suncorp, Transurban and Woolworths. In unusual times like this, the captain really does need to steer the plane and manage the cabin at the same time.
If you’d like support in developing corporate partnerships, or your flight plan is looking turbulent at the moment, contact us for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org