Corporate Collaboration

Corporate collaboration, also known as strategic philanthropy, corporate sponsorship, or nonprofit-business partnership, is the fastest-growing area of nonprofit fundraising. It includes all types of cooperative strategies between nonprofits and businesses. 

This fundraising strategy differs from corporate philanthropy, which comes in response to a grant proposal. For information on obtaining corporate grants, see the section on grants

Unlike pure philanthropy, collaboration is an exchange. When you form collaborations with corporations, you don't expect them simply to give you money. You offer to do something in return. 

One form of corporate collaboration is in-kind giving, which occurs when corporations provide products or services. Usually all they ask in return is recognition and visibility. 

Examples:

  • They provide free design and printing of your annual report. You give them a credit line in the report.
  • They let you use their research facilities in return for an article about them in your newsletter.
  • They provide food and entertainment for your fundraising event. You identify them as your corporate sponsor in publicity about the event.
  • Management experts volunteer their time and expertise to help your organization. You write profiles of these people in your newsletter. 

With another form of corporate collaboration, known as cause-related marketing, a corporation links its product or service to your organization. Every time a consumer buys the product or uses the service, the company makes a donation to your organization. Example: Every time people used their American Express cards, American Express donated one penny to restore the Statue of Liberty. The campaign generated $1.7 million for the Statue and increased American Express card use during the campaign to 30 percent.

PROS

  • It's the classic "win-win" situation. The corporation gets credit for being a good citizen, while you receive support to accomplish good things in the community.
  • Many forms of corporate collaboration, such as cause-related marketing, increase your organization's visibility by linking it to a high-profile company.
  • Corporate collaboration often leads to corporate philanthropy. Once you establish relationships with people in businesses, they're much more likely to say "yes" to your grant proposal.
  • Collaboration is the wave of the future. Very few businesses are willing to give "something for nothing" anymore.
  • It will help you and others in your organization develop a more business-oriented mindset, which is bound to increase your fundraising savvy.

CONS

  • "Who knows whom" is important here. If you don't have a "contact" to open corporate doors, you won't get far.
  • Developing relations takes time. You must be willing to put in months of alliance-building before seeing a payoff.
  • You may have to educate corporations as well as your own staff about how valuable corporate collaborations can be for both parties.
  • Some people frown on collaborations such as cause-related marketing because of the "taint of commercialism" they bring to the nonprofit.

TIPS TO REMEMBER

  • Spend time researching the best corporation with which to collaborate. It's important to find a good "fit" in terms of mission, goals, and shared values.
  • Have a board or staff member who knows someone in the corporation make the first call. (If you finished your exercises in step 4, your board is full of people with good corporate connections.)
  • You need to understand the business environment and know how to talk the language of corporate CEOs.
  • Give corporations opportunities to get to know your organization. Invite key corporate personnel to special events, send them your publications, and put them on your mailing list.
  • Before entering into any agreement, have your attorney draw up a contract for your corporate partner to sign. If the corporation prepares a contract for you to sign, be sure your own attorney reviews it.
  • Lavish appreciation on your corporate collaborators.
     

ARE YOU CONNECTED?

Think about the number of people you talk to each day. Multiply by the number of staff and board members in your organization. That will give you an idea of your organization's network of contacts. Think about your organization's needs, and make connections.