Corporate partnerships people are unique. They have special superpowers of resilience, creativity, courage, resourcefulness and emotional intelligence. But they’re not alchemists, who promised to turn lead into gold.
Some of the biggest challenges in corporate partnerships are the myths and inaccurate assumptions about what constitutes a partnership and what a partner is willing to do for your non-profit. A well nurtured relationship with a strategically aligned partner can be transformational. But misconceptions hold back real partnerships and can destroy the value of an existing relationship.
The following are some of the common myths that we’ve experienced across the NFP sector.
The department of free stuff
If you’re running a school fete, then it’s common to ask local businesses to donate sausages for the sizzle or goods for the tombola. But corporate partners are not a bottomless pit of free stuff. If you’ve got a well-developed, long standing partnership then partners will often provide a range of free services or products as part the relationship. But here’s the key- it’s got to be within the context of a relationship. Too many times I’ve seen partnership managers told to ‘contact Apple for some free iPads’ or ‘call Qantas and ask for free flights’. Sharon’s personal low point is being asked to find umbrellas for an education program in Bangladesh, so the kids wouldn’t get too wet in the monsoon. It’s not the best use of a partnership manager to scrounge free stuff. Nor does it constitute a partnership. It’s like turning up to a first date and asking to borrow her car and lend you money for dinner. Don’t ruin the chance of a real partnership opportunity by treating corporates like a free vending machine.
The BRW Top 100 is a prospecting list
No, it’s not. Even if it’s the CEO who left it on your desk with a helpful post-it note. Your best prospects are the companies that are strategically aligned to your mission, goals and needs. They may not be listed companies at all. The BRW Top 100 is not even a reliable list of who has money, as they may not be willing to part with any of it for non-profits. Prospecting is a thoughtful and strategic process, that includes leveraging your organisational contacts. The next time the BRW lands on your desk, ask the CEO how many personal introductions they can make to the CEOS of the companies on the list.
My need is your emergency
Your funding shortfall is not a matter of urgency for a corporate. You need to focus on the needs and priorities of a corporate partner and then invite them to collaborate on a solution. In a COVID year we know many organisations are facing income challenges- including corporates. If you can create a sense of urgency around a pressing societal issue, such as mental health or environmental degradation, then you’ve got a great start point for a partnership conversation. You’re bringing something of mutual value to the table. Unlike the Director of Fundraising who once asked me to find ‘sponsors’ for the NFP’s annual report, because he had a gap in his fundraising target. He thought that big corporates would have plenty of spare cash to put their logo on the report. Needless to say, he got doughnuts for his bright idea.
I want what she’s having
Someone else’s successful partnership may not be a good idea for you. I had a CEO who loved to bring me articles on corporate partnerships from the latest in-flight magazine- with a helpful note about wanting something similar. Partnerships should be carefully tailored to your NFP’s core strategy and the corporate’s priorities and ambitions. The best partnerships are hard to replicate- and that’s what makes them valuable and long lasting. Try to guide your CEO away from partnership envy and towards real opportunities that are the best fit for you.
Some of the common myths around corporate partnerships have come from NFP leaders with no experience in partnerships. It’s an ongoing challenge to educate and guide leadership and bust these myths that drive partnerships in the wrong direction.
If you need to get your corporate partnerships on the right track, here’s how we can help….
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