Posted by Dana Ostomel

Partnerships between nonprofits and for-profits are typically a win-win. Many companies want to give back to their communities for a variety of reasons, and they often look for nonprofits to partner with. Your organization could be the perfect one for a business or corporation in your community, and you just don’t know it yet.

First, why partnerships? An effective partnership helps to build momentum for funding and brand awareness, for both the nonprofit and the corporation. But kind of like dating, you need to find a corporate partner that is the perfect match for your organization. If you’re able to communicate how a partnership with your organization could be beneficial, you’re a step ahead of the many nonprofits that haven’t given partnerships a lot of thought.

Before you make your next pitch for a partnership, however, there are some important things to consider.

  1. Know your community.

    Who else in town is passionate about your cause (or one similar)? Companies with interests and goals that are similar to your organization's will naturally align with your work. For example, if you’re a rescue shelter for animals, a local pet store would be a great prospective partner. As you study your community, consider how any one business or corporation’s core values may intersect with your nonprofit’s goals. Here are a few things you can do:
    • Look into donation histories to see where local businesses and corporate branches have given in the past.
    • Stay on top of local business news. New leadership or growth within a particular company may create a new opportunity for partnership.
    • Cultivate the existing relationships you have while building new ones by joining local networking groups.

  2. Have a clear, strong brand.

    If it’s not absolutely clear what your organization does and how it impacts your community, you may need to do a little branding work before you’re able to attract a corporate relationship. Does your website accurately reflect your mission? Are your marketing materials and communications clear and consistent across the board? Do you have success stories you can share that demonstrate the effectiveness of your nonprofit? Can you offer numbers and/or statistics that show your impact? Most companies will want to be sure that they form a partnership with a proven organization that’s committed to their brand and their cause with a track record of success.
  3. Determine how your partnership will benefit the business.

    If a corporation is inspired by your nonprofit’s work, that’s a great first step. But they’ll also want to know what they’ll get out of it—that’s just reality. There could be several things they’re looking for.
    • Do they want to increase employee engagement? A volunteer project that brings their staff together and gives them an opportunity to work together as a team is an easy way to benefit you both.
    • Is the business looking for more community visibility? They could be a sponsor for your annual fundraiser, which could increase their brand awareness and boost their reputation locally.
    • Could they give you a discount on services you need in exchange for referrals? Let’s say your printing company does a lot of work for you and other local nonprofits. They might be willing to offer you a discount in exchange for your sending them referrals or new business 

  4. Define how the partnership will help the community.

    Once you’ve identified a company with interests that align with your nonprofit’s mission and discussed how the business will benefit from partnering with you, it is time to talk about what you want to accomplish together. Your vision may be to make quality education available for all children in your state, but a tangible goal for your partnership may be to provide 100 backpacks filled with school supplies. With a metric like that, you could also make different tiers of giving an option. The main thing is that you both understand what you want to accomplish from your partnership and you spell out expectations and goals upfront.

At Firespring, we have a partnership program for nonprofits that’s a win for everyone involved. We partner with several associations that allow their members to receive our products and services at a significant savings. Interested in more information about our partnership program? Get details on our partner page.