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Stellar Partnerships

Start small, but get started

When you get started on something new you become aware of all the people that are already brilliant at it. At my first tap dancing lesson I felt like I was wearing lead boots compared to the Fred Astaire level tap enthusiasts in my class. It was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It took a couple of years of practice before it finally felt right. Then I had to be restrained by my kids from endlessly rehearsing my routines in the kitchen.

Would you love to have a suite of corporate partners? What’s stopping you? We know plenty of organisations that would love to have corporate partnerships but somehow haven’t got started yet. They claim they’re not quite ready yet. It’s a situation familiar to writers. They call it the “one day novel” – as in “one day, I’m going to write that book”. Often the magical day never comes.

There has never been a better time to develop corporate partnerships. The corporate sector desperately needs your help with a range of business challenges and delivering on the community’s expectations. If you’re standing on the side of the pool waiting to dip a toe in, here are some tips to get started in partnerships.

Start local

Businesses love to give where they operate. It helps them demonstrate a real commitment to the community. If you’ve got a small local footprint, or may be in one state only, don’t despair. Start with the businesses with a head office nearby or with a local footprint of outlets, franchises or operations. The Ronald MacDonald House Charities have many different chapters across Australia. In addition to their national partners, they are adept at mobilising smaller business partners that are local to each chapter. They provide valuable support with volunteers, fundraising and pro bono support. River’s Gift is a small charity focused on preventing sudden infant death. Located in Geelong, an hour from Melbourne, it has successfully mobilised its local partnerships to help the organisation grow. Partners range from building company Geelong Homes to local employment and legal firms. Start local, build your capability and reputation and you’ll be confident to explore bigger opportunities in future.

Start small

Don’t give in to partnership envy, when you see the bigger non-profits celebrate multi-million dollar partnerships. They all started small and sharpened their skills, offering and proposition as they progressed. Legacy Australia started with zero partners for their centenary campaign and now have two major partners and a pipeline of over $6mln. Pet Medical Crisis in Melbourne started with small donations from local businesses and moved onto its first $100k partnership. Every partnership is a step closer to the ambitions you have for your organisation. It also provides a proof point, testimonial and content for future partners to give them comfort that you’re a credible community partner.

Just start

The writer Elizabeth Gilbert claims that “perfectionism is just fear dressed up in high heels and a mink coat”. Fear of failure can be paralysing, but so is fear of success. People claim all sorts of reasons for not getting started on corporate partnerships, including a lack of time, no resources or no support. Sometimes it’s a case of not knowing how or not knowing where to start. Don’t fall into the trap of making excuses. There are plenty of ways to overcome the perceived hurdles. Get external help if you need to know more about partnerships. Create dedicated time in your diary if you feel like you’re time poor. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but each of us chooses to spend it differently. Get things started by deciding on your end objective and work backwards. Planning is always tighter in reverse, and you won’t be tempted to let deadlines slip.

Corporate partnership is an untapped gold mine of opportunity. NAB estimated that Australian businesses gave more than $5billion last year and it’s growing. You just need to get started. What are you waiting for?