Starting from scratch? I've been there.
When I was the Director of Development at Food Banks Canada, the organization was just starting to fundraise from companies and together we launched what gradually became a very successful corporate partnership program. Read gradually – success didn’t come overnight.
I started the program with a memo and some internal champions. Corporate fundraising was one of many work streams that fell under my leadership so much of my time was spent growing partnerships and learning a lot along the way.
The Building Blocks of Success
While I revised and improved those early policy and recognitions programs, I listened to corporate partners who provided feedback about what mattered. Repeatedly, I heard that the values of transparency and collaboration were critical to establishing corporate partnerships that benefited all involved.
With these values and my knowledge of best practice in mind, here are some of the building blocks that are essential to building a successful corporate fundraising program.
Start with the Why
Before you do anything, try answering this key question: Why would a company give money to my organization? The answer should be:
My charity is going to help the company with employee retention through an employee engagement strategy.
Their core business can respond to a critical social problem that my charity is addressing and together we can make a valuable difference in society and share that story.
My charity regularly speaks to their core target audience and this new program initiative that I have available for sponsorship will help them reach that audience.
If the answer is “B” then make sure that the only companies you are targeting are ones that have explicitly described your cause as the goal for their philanthropic giving program. Be aware that even then, it’s a long shot!
Disassemble the What
After you’ve uncovered the “why” behind the partnership, dive deeper into what exactly you bring to the table as a charitable partner.
This might require getting a little creative. I recommend that you start by identifying specific program support opportunities. More often than not, these opportunities will be tied to what you hope to receive from your corporate partner.
For example: Are you seeking grants or philanthropic donations? Then what you’re offering is the chance to create social change and impact. Are you in search of marketing dollars? Then what you’re offering is marketing, audience access and/or the unique chance to sponsor an incredible event.
Being able to articulate the “why” and the “what” is a cornerstone of building any successful corporate fundraising program and will help keep you on track and focused as you take next steps.
Before you go too far down the rabbit hole, you’re going to want to make sure that you have both the support and resources required to move forward.
This includes carving out a clear understanding amongst members of your leadership team in regards to both the type of companies you are going to engage, their role in supporting you, and the investment required. It also requires knowledge of resources – human and other – available to you for networking and marketing purposes. Knowing what you have to work with will allow you to set realistic expectations as you collaborate with your corporate partner.
Finally, as you take the next steps in creating your successful corporate fundraising program, you’ll need to address the nitty gritty of policy creation and guidelines. While both can be tedious to pull together, they will keep you on course and true to your charitable values and mission.
Keep it simple. Include guidelines about which companies you are comfortable accepting money from and for what. Then think about how you will steward them moving forward. Establish a recognition and stewardship framework that outlines what will be provided when a company offers X level of support versus Y level of support. Having these guidelines in place helps to facilitate smooth operations, making sure nothing – and no partner – ever falls through the cracks.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be too ambitious. Remember, it doesn’t take much to get started. An understanding of who you are and what you offer, a couple of pages of guidelines, a basic chart and a couple of people on your leadership team or board to help you out is all you need.
Want to know more about Corporate Giving with Heather Nelson? Check out the recording of our masterclass here!