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Ten Strategies For Forging Corporate Relationships

Ten Strategies For Forging Corporate Relationships

By Susan Fields, CFRE

Based upon the Giving USA 2016 Report, corporate philanthropy for 2015 reached $18.45 billion—an increase of 3.95% from the previous year. Of course, the big question remains—how can your organization connect with one or more of these companies to obtain a piece of those resources in the coming year? Because most corporations and large businesses are multifaceted, navigating their complex structure can feel like standing outside Fort Knox figuring out how to get inside. It is for this reason that the Panel of Experts at this informative AFP NYC Educational Program provided ten key strategies and ideas to bring your organization closer to tapping into corporate resources:

  1. Put yourself in a “business state of mind.”Fundraising from corporations is fundamentally different than seeking funds from individuals and family foundations. Because the primary goal of corporate philanthropy is to promote their brand in the community,  there will almost always be a quid pro quo in terms of what they will gain from their affiliation with your organization.
  2. Target your audience.  Make a list of corporations in your community. Search for prospects through business directories and websites. Include those with local headquarters or branches as well as utilities and high profile local sports teams. Keep your eye out for prospects on “donor walls” and annual reports of nonprofits in your area.
  3. Determine in advance the type of support you are seeking. Corporate contributions and partnerships can take many forms—financial support, furniture and equipment, meeting or event space, employee volunteer support, cause related marketing, Matching Gifts, and event Sponsorshipsand/or ticket purchases for your gala or golf classic.
  4. Research, research, research.  Learn about the corporations on your list through reading the information on their websites or utilizing the various resources on the web such as NOZAThe Foundation Center, and Guidestar. Most large companies do their giving through special programs (Matching Gifts, Sponsorships, etc.) or via their own foundation.
  5. Find an insider to advocate for you.Distribute your list of potential supporters to your Board of Directors, staff members, volunteers, and other constituents for possible connections within these companies or others you have not included.
  6. Network in the community. Become active in organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. Attending events, joining committees, and speaking at luncheons can put you in contact with a wide range of corporate and business executives.
  7. Prepare your proposal.  Most usually you will be asked to fill out an online application—while other companies will request a query followed by a personal meeting. Be clear and concise regarding the type of support you are seeking, why your organization is a good fit with their priorities, and how their company will benefit.
  8. If the answer is “no”, discuss obtaining another form of support through their company as a means of maintaining a connection which could later result in financial support.
  9. If the answer is “yes”,  make regular contact with the funder to remind them how their generosity is impacting the people that you serve as well as the publicity they are receiving as a result of their partnership with your organization.
  10. Remember!There is a great deal of competition for corporate dollars. Focus on how your nonprofit stands out and how it fits their funding goals. Don’t rule out approaching smaller businesses for event sponsorships, journal pages, and in-kind contributions to gain a presence in the business community in your area.

Susan J. Fields, CFRE, has worked in the nonprofit sector for 22 years. A former English teacher, she worked in the major gifts department of the United Jewish Appeal and later served as Director of Institutional Advancement at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens. Susan is currently a communications consultant to nonprofit organizations.

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