For a nonprofit organization, attracting the right corporate partner is a very important step, and a tricky one to navigate. In the Candid Blog article “Attracting your best corporate partner,” it is likened to having a successful date, and really, that’s about what it’s like! The stakes are high, the relationship is almost invariably awkward at first, and you’ll likely be focused on trying to make a good impression. As it was suggested in the aforementioned article though, it’s also important to go into the process fully aware of your own strengths. This will ultimately make it more likely that you find a corporate partner who is not just willing to work with you, but with whom you can form a valuable partnership.
But then, of course, comes the process of making sure the partnership can endure. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your corporate partner is every bit the challenge when establishing one in the first place, and is arguably even more crucial to the long-term success and growth of your organization. To some extent, it just comes down to making sure that you reliably come through on your end of the bargain. Beyond general performance though, there are a few specific things you can focus on in order to keep the relationship strong.
Establish transparency about results and successes
One of the quickest ways to allow a relationship of this nature to deteriorate is to give off the impression that you’re only partners when you need help. This isn’t altogether uncommon, but it does very little to strengthen a bond or promote a lasting arrangement. So instead, it’s worth your time and effort to make sure that you establish transparency about the results and successes of your organization’s efforts, so that your corporate partner can share in them.
Inc.’s look at how to build a partnership touched on this idea by stating simply that you should consider your partner a part of your own team. In that case, the suggestion was specifically about making sure that roles and functions are clearly defined, and this is a wise idea as well. However, people in the nonprofit sector often like the notion of establishing a unified team with respect to transparency as well. You should keep your corporate partner in the loop the same way you do your own co-workers or employees.
Over-deliver on your promises
This point more or less speaks to itself, and it also goes back to something I noted above, which is that maintaining a strong relationship ultimately comes down to holding up your end of the bargain. But if you can do more, the relationship will be that much healthier. Proving that your organization cannot just meet expectations, but actually exceed them, is the best way to inspire confidence in future projects. It will make your corporate partner feel positive—rather than just satisfied—with the arrangement.
Avoid in-house financial woes
Whether or not your corporate partner is actually funding you, it’s likely that severe in-house financial woes won’t go unnoticed. And unfortunately, they can give off the impression that your organization is struggling or might be in need of more help. A partner wants to be a partner—they don’t want to have to worry about propping you up.
For this reason, it’s only wise to set a realistic budget and actually stick to it. Whether you like it or not, every successful organization has to do some form of budgeting. Otherwise, your company will be under before you even launch. Budgeting is your ticket to financial control because you’ll be able to accurately monitor your cash flow. More specifically, you can track the money that’s coming in (revenue) and the money that’s going out (expenses).
It’s important to adopt a realistic mindset when it comes to budgeting. Don’t be too loose with your company’s money, unless you’re willing to gamble it all away. Also, don’t be too stringent, or else, there won’t be enough room for growth. But even more crucial is understanding that budgets should always be open to adjustments. Before going into a complete overhaul of your cash flow, an article on effective budgeting by Marcus recommends monitoring it for one to two months first. This will allow you to glean some valuable insights on your cash flow and how you can optimize it with key adjustments. Whatever the case, mapping out the financial blueprint of your company can help with long-term sustainability that will keep corporate partners happy and confident.
Provide the good publicity they want
Keep in mind also that even a great corporate partner who believes in your organization’s mission and wants to help is also—almost certainly—seeking good publicity. The Balance covered this idea from the perspective of companies and put it simply: Giving back to the community is an excellent way to promote your business. Corporate entities want to be associated with good causes and can gain that kind of association by partnering with nonprofits.
To that, I’d say that you should give them the publicity they want! So long as they’re holding up their end, it makes plenty of sense to openly promote corporate partners. By listing them on your website, thanking them during events or new ventures, looping them in on social media activity, and so on, you can give them what they’re looking for and strengthen the relationship in doing so.
Through all of these efforts, as well as consistent strong performance, it’s possible to build up a strong and lasting partnership. That in turn will make it all the more likely that your nonprofit can continue to grow and thrive.
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