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3 Steps for Building Trust with Corporate Sponsors


The following is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, vice president of business development for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofits sometimes view building relationships with their for-profit brethren as a significant challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, as long as you reach out and ask, you’ll find that many for-profit businesses are more than willing to help. Like all partnerships, the key to the nonprofit and for-profit partnership is creating win-win situations. Below are some tips on setting yourself up for success when dealing with potential corporate sponsors and donors.

Step 1: Be Proactive

Corbit Harrison Corbit Harrison

First and foremost: when dealing with businesses, you can’t be shy. Corporations ask for the sale all the time. In fact, it’s what keeps them going. They understand that “a closed mouth won’t get fed,” so they won’t automatically be turned off if you approach them for monetary assistance. The fact that U.S. corporations give 15 billion dollars in gifts annually solidifies the point that companies are often in a giving mood. If you’re not asking, your organization may really be missing out.

Step 2: Be Measurable

Be very clear how donations will be used. Will they go toward continuing an existing program? Purchasing much-needed equipment? Launching a new initiative? Additionally, try your best to quantify the observable outcomes in terms of people served, supplies purchased, et cetera. When companies are deciding which causes to support, they want to be assured that their money is being used wisely.

Most importantly, make sure your corporate partners are getting something in return, and put it in a statistical format when possible. Maybe your partner is getting advertising exposure to a certain demographic that is key to them. State your best estimate of how many of those people will be reached. Or perhaps when a company sends volunteers to your organization, you can make sure their time with you gives them a particular skill or experience to take back to the workplace. Any way you can measurably better your corporate partner’s brand, image, or workforce is a win for you, too.

Step 3: Be Creative

Creativity will help your partnering opportunities stand out from all the rest, and it will elevate your sponsor’s brand. For example, at VolunteerHub we recently launched a corporate sponsorship program that allows for-profit companies to sponsor “hubs” for their preferred nonprofit organizations. We believe such programs serve as a unique way to cement the relationship between nonprofit and for-profit partners and offer targeted exposure for the corporate brand.

In addition to requesting dollars, as we mentioned earlier, you can also ask for volunteer time. There is a growing trend in which companies are establishing employee volunteer programs (EVPs) as part of their corporate citizenship efforts. Companies such as Home Depot, Target, and Verizon are some such examples.

EVP structures vary widely, but most larger corporations offer information about their social responsibility plans on their websites. Make the time to do a little research into those near you, and approach them if it seems to be a good fit. This may be especially helpful when you’re planning a big event -- and a great opportunity for corporate volunteers to be seen in action helping the community, especially if they are wearing shirts with their company logo.

Getting Started with Corporate Sponsors

This article is just a springboard to get you thinking about the many opportunities available with corporate partnerships. The key to forging relationships in this arena is like any other. Being clear about what it is you need and what you will do with the gifts offered will go a long way in building trust with those in the business community. Meanwhile, taking the time to add some uniqueness and creativity to your giving opportunities will help your cause stand out among the crowd.

Corbit Harrison is the Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub and has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on Linkedin.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice