By: Mollye Rhea
Creating social impact has become an important topic in the boardroom. Consumers and employees expect companies and brands to use their voice and their assets to do good. Companies are looking for nonprofit partners who can help them advance their business and philanthropy goals. The new year is the ideal time to for a refresher course in cause partnerships and to examine your current partner program.
A successful partnership is mutually beneficial. Companies are looking for employee engagement opportunities. They also want to showcase their community support and to reach specific business goals. Nonprofits are looking for additional revenue. More volunteers and new ways to amplify their message are always on the wish lists of nonprofits. For a partnership to be sustainable and grow, both sides must receive value.
Tap into current corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues to build your partner program. Does your nonprofit have an impact on a hot button topic? Companies are looking for partnerships to deliver on key business goals such as diversity & inclusion, sustainability, good health and well-being and equality. 2020 is an important election year and also the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment – which granted women the right to vote. Companies and brands will be looking for civic engagement opportunities to display their patriotism and their support of women.
There should be an alignment of values between the brand and the nonprofit. Will the brand represent the nonprofit well? Has there been any recent controversy or bad publicity? Is their industry one your cause wishes to be associated with? Make an exclusion list of industries and include companies that would make your stakeholders uncomfortable, before you conduct partnership outreach.
Clear expectations and transparency are a must. What are you hoping to gain from the partnership? What is the company looking to accomplish? Allow enough time to really dive beneath the surface and have honest discussions about the necessary ROI for both partners. Agree on how you will measure impact and put everything in writing. Establishing a roadmap with clear objectives will lead to success and satisfied partners who wish to continue their relationship with you.
Providing strong stewardship is key. Communicate often with your partner and make sure their needs are being met throughout the year. Don’t wait until renewal time to learn they are disappointed in their investment. Send impact reports at agreed-upon intervals and provide compelling content about your cause that they can share with their employees, customers and suppliers.
Incorporate fresh ideas and meaningful activations into your partner program. The cause landscape is cluttered with good causes. Remember your partnership is a business deal, not a donation. Create ways to engage your partner’s target audiences. Empower your team to address the unique needs of each corporate partner and focus on their goals.
Most importantly, deliver on what is promised! That should be the foundation your entire cause partner program is built on. Don’t promise more than you can deliver, especially in the first year of the partnership. You can expand partnership goals in year two once you have a solid working relationship with the partner.