When non-profits look for new corporate prospects, they look for things they have in common. Unlike dating, opposites don’t attract in corporate partnerships. Finding alignment with elements such as shared audiences, brand, or geographic footprint is a great way to start.
But sometimes it’s worth thinking laterally when it comes to the right fit. The most unlikely companies may be your most promising prospects. Like cajoling a toddler to eat broccoli, the ones that seem most unappetising could actually be better for you. They could also be the ones that make the biggest difference to your cause.
There are four categories of corporate prospect to consider. Here’s how it works.
Who has a shared interest in you succeeding? Which company is actually losing money due to the issues you’re trying to address? Medibank is a key partner of Beyond Blue and the partnership raises awareness of mental health. During the early COVID19 response, Medibank helped set up a 24/7 Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service to meet the surge in demand for Australians seeking counselling and help with mental health. Although Medibank had the best of intentions to support the community, they could also see an explosion of health claims for poor mental health. It was in their interest to mitigate the impact on society and on their business. Similarly when NRMA partnered with the SES QLD to provide vital equipment and support they saw an opportunity where an effective SES would be a win-win for the community and their business. Consider which businesses are being impacted by the issues you’re working on and how supporting you makes for better business.
Which businesses are turning a blind eye to negative societal impact and effectively letting things continue to protect their business? Their core business might be relatively benign but their operations, procurement or practices may be facilitating the problem. When Just Jeans sold sandblasted jeans they ignored the exploitation of their outsourced overseas workers, who were exposed to the harmful dust that was causing silicosis. Furniture manufacturers might not be the ones doing the logging, but their use of old growth timber facilitates the destruction of important habitat for native animals. Online dating apps like Tinder are used to target and groom women into abusive relationships. That’s why WESNET works with Match Group to make online dating safer. Think about the corporates that are facilitating the problem and you will have a compelling proposition about working with you to be part of the solution.
Who makes the problem worse for the target group, even unwittingly? When you’re struggling with a cancer diagnosis, the last thing you want is a heavy-handed response from your bank about your mortgage repayments. It will make you more stressed and less likely to focus on your recovery. When Cancer Council worked with Commonwealth Bank they helped to train the frontline customer service staff on how to deal compassionately with customers affected by cancer. The bank was able to offer appropriate support during their most difficult times, relieve the financial burden of the cancer diagnosis and improve customer retention. Another unplanned side-effect was the increased staff satisfaction from knowing they could make a meaningful difference to customers. Consider which businesses are exacerbating the problem and show them how to have a more positive response through a partnership with you.
Which corporates are the source of the issues you’re working on? What needs to change to make the world a better place? The list of prospects here might be the ones on your no-go list and your hotlist of villains. But sometimes the worst offenders can be the ones that can create a bigger shift if you can get them to change their ways. When Save the Children Sweden first worked with IKEA it was to highlight the presence of child labour in their supply chain. They took no money from IKEA and there was no public marketing. Instead, they worked closely with the company to eradicate child labour and create better livelihoods for children and families working in the supply chain.
When you’re preparing your shortlist of corporate prospects by all means look for the most obvious areas of alignment. But consider also the businesses that are part of the problem. By offering solutions, you can positively impact their operations, practices and procurement. You’ll be offering a way to positively impact society and make a substantial difference to their bottom line.