I have been at my new job for just about four months, and in that time I have witnessed what amazing power volunteers have on the success of a nonprofit. While this is something I already knew, it has become more apparent to me than ever. I work with an organization that has amazing continuous (weekly, bi-weekly) volunteers, and a high number of large corporations and businesses that give their time and money towards the work that we do.
I see big companies like Banana Republic, Disney, and Universal, send groups of their staff to volunteer together all the time, and the amount of work they accomplish is invaluable. Some of these companies not only volunteer their time, they also give grants to the organizations that their staff members volunteer with to support them monetarily. We have great relationships with so many large businesses both financially and in volunteer time and in-kind donations.
The key to why we are successful comes down to one main thing- we understand that partnerships are just that, PARTNERships. We work with corporations in a collaborative way and help make sure their needs are met too. It is a multiple step process, you need to know how to reach out and obtain corporate sponsors, but you also need to cultivate and foster those relationships, all while brainstorming how you will continuously evolve them into something greater.
Every year billions and billions of dollars are donated through corporate giving in the U.S, clearly a benefit that nonprofits should be leveraging. Nonprofits should be strategically planning how they are engaging with donors, not just going at it willy nilly.
I’ll break it down into 3 (basic) steps:
#1. Get sponsors
If you think just any company should be supporting your organization, think again. Your search for corporate sponsors should have some sort of method to it’s madness. Find companies with like values and interests. In the end, they are going to be more dedicated and loyal to an organization they are aligned with over one they just decided to donate to because they asked. This will help you in determining how they can support you, be it monetary or in other ways. Don’t forget the value of in-kind sponsors and volunteer hours!
#2. Give don’t just take
I cannot stress enough how important communication is with donors. They want transparency, and they aren’t going to remain a donor if they felt they were left in the dark at any point. Following-up, asking for feedback, and building a personal rapport are all key to sustaining a relationship.
#3. Grow together
Companies aren’t just looking to give you money, they are looking for marketing opportunities, and they don’t want to market the exact same thing each year. It’s a fact, people are changing their consumer habits to support businesses that are doing social good, so this is a huge marketing strategy for big companies out there. Figuring out how your partnership can evolve each year is key to keeping companies engaged. What new initiatives/projects can they support? How can a program be expanded on with their dollars? You need to think about how they can give and have a different impact.
There is so much more to be learned, but that should get you started.
Now go out and build those relationships!