Hands up if you think there’s a queue of corporates that can’t wait to see their logo on your charity’s website. Now repeat after me, “a logo is not a partnership”. It’s not even a sponsorship- as I can see from all the sponsorship experts out there face palming as you raise your hands.
I once had the Director of Fundraising at one charity ask me to find corporate ‘sponsors’ for the charity’s annual report. He was aghast to receive zero interest in putting a logo on a document with a print run of under 100, that was primarily downloaded by accountants, a few retired donors and those coming in for a job interview. He made the mistake of thinking that a logo on the report represented a sponsorship opportunity- and that sponsorship was the same as a shared value corporate partnership.
Charities embark on the quest for corporate partners for many reasons. Some just want untied cash funding, others seek a range of outcomes, including pro-bono services, workplace giving, access to networks and brand awareness. Sometimes a corporate sponsorship is the right fit, typically if the charity has a signature event or specific asset that is commercially valuable to a corporate. For example, Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight has an annual TV audience of 2.5 million people on Channel 9 and extensive print and radio coverage every year. That’s an attractive sponsorship proposition for the right corporate.
Sponsorship can be extremely valuable as a stand-alone proposition to a corporate or as part of a bigger overall partnership. But sponsorship is only one possible component of a shared value corporate partnership. Charities who think they are the same thing are missing the bigger picture. It’s like imagining your Sunday roast dinner is only about the meat and missing out on the roast potatoes, fabulous veg and gravy on top.
To get the full value of a corporate partnership, you must think about it as a relationship and understand what your partner actually wants. Take a look at the following examples and you’ll see why there is more to get excited about with corporate partnerships than a logo on your website.
- Alignment of core mission and activities
This is a fancy way of saying that you need to find common ground with what they do and your charity’s mission. How can your charity’s activities help the corporate achieve its objectives?
- A fit with your values
There must be alignment of values for any relationship to flourish. The corporates who recently championed the vote for Marriage Equality did so because they wanted to represent themselves as inclusive and diverse organisations. Have you thought about which corporates are the best fit for your charity’s values? Where are the synergies between your charity and a corporate that will make for a compelling partnership?
- New audiences or consumers for their products or services
We recently worked with a corporate looking for a newer, younger audience for their products. They chose a charity partner that had strong appeal to a millennial audience, who could help them reach new consumers with an authentic and inspiring voice. Interestingly, they didn’t want a traditional cause marketing partnership, with a logo on the packet and a percentage of sales donated. This corporate wanted brand engagement and the opportunity to tell an emotional story through the partnership. They saw the opportunity to engage a new customer segment in a way that resonated with their younger audience demographic.
- The opportunity to engage their staff meaningfully
Staff engagement can be incredibly important to a corporate, especially if they struggle to motivate their teams to do a mundane role every day. We once worked with Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Dettol. They jumped at the opportunity to engage their staff in a global health campaign that would provide health workers to the poorest villages in Africa. Suddenly, measuring sales of Dettol all day became a lot more meaningful when it brought about life saving changes to thousands of families.
- The opportunity to create something new, together
Dreams and ambitions are seductive. If you’re a small charity but have big ambitions or a new idea, that can be very attractive to a corporate partner. You are giving them the opportunity to create something new and innovative. Movember started with two guys in a back room with big ambitions for men’s health. Now they are part of a global movement, with corporate partners proud to have been on the journey with them.
So, the next time your fundraising director or CEO asks you to find a ‘sponsor’ and offer them a logo on your website, you have our full permission to roll your eyes and show them this list. If you invest time to find out what actually matters to a corporate partner and what they really value, you are on the right path to a meaningful, shared value partnership.
Stellar Partnerships works with corporates seeking charity partners and with charities, to build their capability for corporate partnerships. If you’d like to know more, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org