“You just need to get out there’.
It’s what corporate partnership managers hear all the time from their bosses. The pressure to find new partnership opportunities. The assumption that activity equals outcomes. But where exactly is ‘there’? And if the truth really is out there, why did it take Mulder and Scully twelve seasons to find it?
We know there are plenty of corporate partnership opportunities for non-profits, despite the current environment. New and exciting ones are being created every week. But they’re not like chocolate eggs in a kids’ Easter hunt, just waiting for the hungry hordes to show up. Activity based measurement is the wrong way to measure the quality of a corporate partnership program.
A while ago we met a corporate partnership manager who was given a target by his boss of making 50 calls a week. That’s 50 calls to new prospects, not even follow up ones. He was super stressed and had run out of corporates to call. He was down to the owner of the local milk bar near the office. He didn’t lack enthusiasm, but he didn’t know what he had to offer and why he was calling each one of them.
To build a successful corporate partnerships program you need to resist the classic sales approach of pushing product to people who don’t need it. Purposeful, impactful partnerships start back home in your own organisation. If you’re going to ‘get out there’ you need to build a map and know where you’re going. Without a map, you’re just a tourist- and you’ll burn resources, effort, people and relationships along the way.
Be strategic, be ambitious
You need to clearly articulate to a partner where you’re going and inspire them with your ambition. Funding a program isn’t particularly ambitious, even if it has nice outcomes and great pictures. An ambitious goal is ‘Zero deaths from breast cancer’ or ‘saving a million children’s lives’. Then your programs and activities become proof points of how you’re working towards the goal. Too many times it feels like non-profits have a Ferrari but are talking about the wheels and spark plugs rather than the thrill of the experience.
Connect the partnership to your core business
Alignment really matters. It means that you can answer a corporate prospect’s key question – ”why are you to talking to me?” The partnership between Samaritans UK and Network Rail is a great example of alignment of their core businesses. Samaritans are a crisis line for people thinking of suicide. The partnership with Network Rail aims to prevent railway suicides and support those affected by them. There is strong alignment between the two organisations and over the last 10 years the partnership has trained over 20,000 rail staff and prevented over 900 suicides. The impact goes far beyond what could be achieved with a philanthropic donation.
Leverage what makes you special
Do you know your unique strengths and what you have to offer a partner? A systematic approach to cataloguing your strengths and assets will help you develop a strong value proposition for a corporate partner. It could be expertise, audiences, content, relationships or more. Understanding what’s unique about your organisation will help to find partners that find your strengths valuable. When Sensis partnered with RUOK they were attracted by RUOK’s young and compelling ambassadors. The ambassadors became the face of a national campaign using Sensis’ huge print and digital channels.
The urge to ‘get out there’ can lead you down plenty of blind alleys with businesses that aren’t real prospects. Better to spend time within your organisation getting your map right. Then your boss can celebrate your new partnerships rather than bug you about how many calls you’re making.
When you’re ready… here are three ways we can help:
- Subscribe to our Partnerships News in the box below and get our latest blogs, tips and free resources.
- Register for our next group training program Partnership Acquisition Skills to sharpen your sale skills. Last chance to register for our 10th November intake.
- Book a free 30 min health check about your partnerships: firstname.lastname@example.org