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Stellar Partnerships

Tailor made for success

As a vertically challenged female, clothes shopping is a struggle. Modern clothes, especially jeans, are made for people built like a giraffe, with impossibly long arms and legs. I have to imagine every outfit with 10 cm shaved off somewhere. On the few occasions when I’ve had something tailor made, it was a revelation. I couldn’t pour enough cash into the hands of those talented tailors in Hanoi fast enough.

You all know and feel the difference of something that is made just for you. Those fitted shelves in your study make the old IKEA bookcase look saggy and sad. Then why do non-profits persist in sending corporates the same standardised offer? There’s a better way to win the attention of new partners.

The rookie mistake we see all the time is the cookie cutter approach. Non-profits put together a corporate brochure and send it out like a mass market direct mail to corporates. Typically the response rate is zero. Corporate partnerships are not a numbers game, like regular giving with a bigger cheque.

Our corporate clients tell us often about the unsolicited approaches that land in their inbox every week. They ignore the ones that are not relevant or tailored to them. You need to do your basic research to find out their major themes or areas of focus and address them specifically. A cookie cutter brochure makes you look lazy, or worse, complacent. You’re making the corporate do the work to figure out if the partnerships is a good fit. You’re the one that needs to make the case, not them.

The second mistake is to spend most of the time talking about your non-profit. Your brochure can be glossy, professional and slick but completely miss the point. It’s not about you, it’s about them.  No doubt you’ve got lots to say about your organisation, its history, your cause and your impact. But it makes a pitch very one-sided, like a boring dinner companion who doesn’t ask you a single question and talks about changes to the lbw rule all night. Whatever you send to your corporate prospect needs to be relevant, succinct and inspiring. You’re giving them a taste of something that fits with their values, priorities and challenges. Don’t forget that your non-profit is merely the catalyst for solving both societal issues and their business aspirations. You are not the hero of the story- they are.

It’s best to create a separate ‘credentials’ document to share with a corporate prospect. That is essentially a collection of ‘greatest hits’ for your organisation: your achievements, mission, ambitions and successes so far. It’s intended to inspire and pique their interest, but not bore them with an encyclopedia of details. It then allows your pitch or approach to focus directly on the corporate’s needs and priorities. The credentials document then becomes evidence of your credibility as a partner.

The final mistake is to create a brochure with tiers of partnerships and associated benefits. But partnerships are not ready-made meals from MacDonald’s, they’re high class a la carte. The main problem with tiers and benefits is that you’re guessing at what they might find valuable. In every package there is something they don’t want. That means you’re wasting your resources to deliver something that they don’t need and forcing them to fit into your construction of value. If you’re at a classy restaurant, you want it just the way you like. That’s why it attracts a premium price. If you want to play at the McHappy Meal level of pricing, then that’s what partnership tiers will bring you.

If you’re starting out in partnerships and your boss asks about your corporate brochure, don’t fall into the trap of the typical mistakes. Every partnership needs to be tailor made for each corporate prospect. If you can get under the surface of their needs and priorities, you’ll have a much better chance of making the right connection and building a valuable relationship.