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Building Corporate Relationships: 4 Steps For Nonprofits

Do you believe your nonprofit lacks the resources needed to attract and manage corporate partnerships? It's a common misconception that only large organizations have what it takes to earn corporate partners. Rather, your mission's impact and story are invaluable assets that can attract corporate interest, regardless of your budget.

To boost your nonprofit’s revenue, we’re here to help you reach beyond the limitations of traditional fundraising methods and form meaningful relationships. Follow the easy steps we share to forge lasting partnerships, from identifying companies to tracking their ongoing support!

Step 1) Research Potential Corporate Partners

Building corporate relationships begins with identifying potential partners whose corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals align with your nonprofit's mission.

Start by understanding what your nonprofit brings to the table. What are your strengths, achievements, and unique selling points? How does your mission resonate with current societal needs or corporate philanthropy trends? By understanding your value proposition, you can more effectively locate companies that share your vision.

To pinpoint specific corporate giving opportunities, we recommend:

  • Looking for generous programs. A company’s existing CSR programs indicate what types of support you could earn through a partnership. Consider your nonprofit’s priorities. If you want to grow supporter engagement and secure more funding, look for matching gifts and volunteer grant opportunities. If you regularly host fundraising auctions, look for companies that offer in-kind gifts to donate auction items. If you need more hands-on support, look for employee volunteer programs.
  • Leveraging existing networks. Board members, volunteers, and donors often have corporate connections that could fit your organization. For example, try asking supporters where they work and if they can introduce you to the company’s leadership.
  • Analyzing CSR reports and commitments. Many companies that engage in CSR have a mission statement page on their website and publish annual CSR reports. Reviewing these resources provides a deeper understanding of a company's priorities.

In this step, your goal is to cast a wide but strategic net, focusing on companies that have the capacity to support your mission and share a genuine interest in your cause.

Step 2) Prioritize Partners That Offer Matching Gifts

Let’s dive deeper into the idea of prioritizing companies that offer generous programs, specifically those with matching gift programs. Matching gift programs double the impact of individual donors’ contributions, boosting your fundraising potential. These programs empower companies to align their charitable giving with their employees’ values, bringing a deeper meaning to your partnerships.

Not only are matching gifts great for these partnerships, but doubling contributions is great for donor engagement, too! According to Getting Attention’s donor engagement guide, 84% of donors are more likely to give if a match is offered, while 1 in 3 donors will actually donate a larger gift.

Information about individual matching gift programs can often be found on a company's CSR page or through a matching gift database. Pay attention to the specific requirements of each company’s program, such as:

Search results showing match amount and nonprofit & employee eligibility
  • Donation minimums and maximums
  • Match ratios, which are the rate at which a company will match employees’ gifts
  • Employee eligibility requirements
  • The types of nonprofits that are eligible
  • The process for submitting match requests

These details will help you assess the potential impact of a partnership with each company and prioritize those with the most favorable terms. Even if a company doesn’t offer matching donations, it may be willing to create a custom program to match employees’ donations to your nonprofit exclusively.

Best of all, while a matching gift program is a great indicator of a generous corporate partner, you don’t even have to form partnerships to leverage this type of corporate philanthropy.

Step 3) Develop Tailored Proposals

Crafting formal sponsorship proposals goes beyond asking for support. A well-crafted proposal lays the foundation for a lasting relationship. Here’s how you can create ones that align your nonprofit’s vision with each company’s values and goals:

  • Avoid one-size-fits-all proposals. Personalize your approach based on each corporate partner's specific interests and CSR objectives. Use your research from previous steps to highlight aspects of your nonprofit’s work that directly align with each company’s CSR initiatives.
  • Highlight how the company will benefit. While business owners may genuinely want to support good causes, corporate philanthropy offers other benefits to corporations, such as community exposure, higher employee engagement, and tax deductions. Double the Donation’s workplace giving guide indicates that 69% of employees are more loyal to companies that offer workplace giving, while 84% have more trust in businesses with charitable giving programs.
  • Tell your nonprofit’s story. Your proposal should vividly convey your mission, your work’s impact, and the lives that have been changed. Our grant management guide suggests combining emotional stories from beneficiaries with concrete data about your organization’s accomplishments to create a persuasive proposal.

During this step, remember your nonprofit’s unique value proposition from step one. By building a strong case for support, you can get the right corporate partners invested in your mission.

In each proposal, be clear about the type of support you’re seeking, whether that’s financial, in-kind donations, or volunteer time. Make your ask direct but flexible, showing that you’re open to different forms of support.

Step 4) Maintain Effective Records

Once you’ve successfully formed partnerships with some companies that you’re really excited about, you need to cultivate long-lasting relationships with them. A big part of inspiring corporate partners to stick around is maintaining effective records.

Proper record-keeping goes beyond organizational hygiene; it’s essential for tracking the impact of corporate giving, managing in-kind gifts, and ensuring compliance with legal obligations.

To effectively record the impact of your corporate partnerships, here’s what you can do:

  • Record all financial contributions, including cash donations and matching gifts, with detailed information about the donation date, amount, and the specific program or project supported. Accurately log these financial contributions in key financial documents and systems such as your statement of activities, general ledger, and donor records.
  • Establish a system to assess the fair market value of in-kind gifts. When recording these gifts, be sure to keep detailed records of what was received, when, and how it was used.
  • Develop a reporting schedule. Regular reports will help you stay on top of your record-keeping, build trust with corporate partners, and show them the tangible results of their support. Develop a schedule for internal and external reporting, including financial reports, impact assessments, and updates on how contributions are being used.

Maintaining effective records and communicating results to corporate partners can go a long way in fostering a foundation of trust that encourages ongoing support. You can even share results with future partners to showcase that you take corporate relationships seriously.

Wrapping Up

“Corporate philanthropy” isn’t just another buzzword in the nonprofit sector. It’s a way for companies to make a real difference for important causes like yours. Building ongoing relationships through partnerships allows you to transform corporate giving into a lasting revenue source for your cause. Follow these steps, and you’ll start identifying and connecting with more companies that are ready to make an impact.

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