Rather than focusing on well-intended philanthropy, the For-Purpose sector needs to focus on structured, strategic partnerships with the corporate sector that benefit both parties AND... it must be best practice or nothing.
In fact, one of the biggest opportunities to come out of the report for the Not-For-Profit sector lies with corporate Australia says Mr Greiner, Executive Director. "Charities need to rethink the way they use the corporate sector. There is a real opportunity for businesses to become a 'skilled partner' to charitable organisations. At the end of the day, in order for the Australian charity sector to work productively and thrive, we need to prompt a sensible sharing of assets and knowledge between not-for-profits, corporate supporters and individual donors."
For years I have worked alongside magnificent organisations that struggle to make ends meet, get programs off the ground, engage volunteers, steward donors and promote their brilliant work to the wider community. What I know to be true is that the strength and sustainability of a For-Purpose organisation lies within the diversity of its funding streams. There is a massive opportunity right now for organisations to correct the power imbalance that has seen them fail to value their true worth in corporate partnerships, creating relationships that go beyond financial investment to positively impact the community and cause they work so hard to support.
The question is, how do you take a giant step in the direction of meaningful connections with companies that can not only bring you vital financial investment, access to larger audiences who can discover you, creative marketing opportunities to help you grow but are also highly aligned with your cause?
Surprisingly, the answer does not lie with creating a better sponsorship proposal or getting a bigger, hotter list of prospects. The answer to your success with corporate partnerships lies with a mindset shift that sees you first, place much greater value on your knowledge and the vital role you play as gatekeeper to a community of followers that is a valuable target market to the right partner. When this happens (at all levels of your organisation) you are no longer a charity in need of funding, but a valuable marketing partner to the right company. That's when the magic can happen.
There are four steps you need to know about best practices in sponsorship when building a successful strategy for your organisation.
Create a PLAN - get your internal ducks in a row.
FIND the sponsors that want to work with you.
CONNECT - secure the right brands for your organisation.
KEEP your partners year after year.
Planning in sponsorship is the most underestimated stage of creating a successful strategy. When you decide that you are ready to engage corporate partners, you also need to have everything in place internally by the time you make your approach to a brand (because once you've made an approach you can't take it back and start over.) Your plan should focus on maximizing internal support and ensuring you have robust organisational processes that set you up for success at all levels. Correct planning includes creating a culture of commercial acumen at the Board level or ‘sponsorship friendliness' that promotes a whole of-organisation's commitment to support your efforts. For-Purpose organisations that are successful at engaging corporate support are the ones that know why their supporters are a potential target market to a company and what communication channels they can offer to leverage the ideal partnership.
Finding brands that are the ‘right fit’ for your organisation is a vital part of the sponsorship process. Unfortunately, this is where most For-Purpose organisations choose to start their journey. The high priority need for more funds drives many charities to approach brands without fully understanding just how successful they could be if they had a clearer action plan. The challenge of commencing your sponsorship journey in this phase means that you have missed vital steps in the process (like forgetting to create the foundation of your new house before putting the walls in!) Unless you know what you have to offer, are supported internally and have policies in place that define how your organisation sees corporate partnerships, then you are potentially building your house on sand... never a good thing! Finding the brands that are willing to align with your organisation is not just about asking ‘who are we going to approach?’ It means taking the time to value your offering to sponsors, do your research to ensure a strong alignment and build relationships with potential partners before you send them a proposal.
Connecting with partners who are aligned with your mission and can see the value of you being a direct route to their target market is a milestone worth celebrating! Understandably, many For-Purpose organisations get to this stage of the process with feelings elation, knowing the value of this investment, but this natural excitement can all too often lead many to take their focus back to their ‘core mission’ and new partners and fresh promises can be forgotten, leading to difficult conversations, uncomfortable relationships and no chance of renewal or investment for the following year. You must secure the connection. Ensuring you have the right tools, contracts and processes in place to make it as easy as possible for a partner to stay with you and enjoy the experience of becoming part of your ‘community’s family’.
Keeping sponsors is the name of the game! Don't employ months of hard work only to lose them because you haven’t delivered what you promised, or worse, created expectations that you weren’t able to keep. It’s inevitable that partnerships will come to an end at some point and as long as you are able to identify what is happening then you can still maintain respectful and professional relationships. However, sometimes things just don’t work out – what then? This phase is about ensuring that you are in control and can identify what's best for your organisation to maintain your sustainability.
Best practice sponsorship starts with your organisation and ends with your organisation. That's where the buck should always stop. When you are able to flow through the planning, finding, connecting and keeping phases you will be able to continually tweak, tighten and refine your processes and approaches to keep growing your network of partners that want to see your success as much as you do.
International speaker and one of Australasia's leading corporate partnership advisors to the Not-For-Profit Sector, Abby has more than 25 years experience in marketing, sales, adult education, communications, event management and corporate and cause-related partnerships.
Abby's key passion involves teaching revenue-generation strategies to organisations that transform their performance, maximise their impact and increase their income. As Director and Co-Founder of Infinity Sponsorship, Abby’s proven pathways to best practice sponsorship support For-Purpose organisations, charities and events to understand their value to corporate partners and make a compelling approach that allows them to diversify their income streams and continue their vital work in the community.
Connect with Abby on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and The Ultimate Non-Profit and Charity Sponsorship Network - LinkedIn Group