Many nonprofits find individual donors to be the lifeblood of a sustainable organization.
And considering individuals contribute around 67% of total charitable giving, the emphasis on personal donations makes sense.
But one-off donors aren’t the only source of funding, nor the most reliable source of funding, nonprofits should be focused on.
Corporate partnerships can be an equally successful channel for nonprofits to find dependable support in a variety of forms, from direct monetary backing to helpful skills and connections.
The trouble is, most nonprofits approach corporate sponsors the wrong way.
They view these partners as giant institutions and treat the relationship as such, submitting applications to standardized programs or asking companies to fit into specific packages, normally with minimal success.
The fact of the matter is, corporations don’t sponsor nonprofits, people within corporations do. So the key to building effective and long-term corporate partnerships relies on personal relationships with empathetic decision-makers.
How do you do that, you ask?
Well, one of the most successful ways to start new connections is through email. Email lets you target your outreach efforts and provide value upfront in ways that entice corporate partners to support your nonprofit.
We created this article from our personal experience helping nonprofits start new relationships with corporate partners so your organization can do the same. (We also created this free, downloadable kit to enable you to start implementing this strategy!)
We’ll include simple steps to create high-performing email campaigns and give you our favorite template that you can use today.
If your organization wants customized help, reach out for a consultation, otherwise, let’s get into it!
What is a Corporate Partnership?
In the nonprofit world, a corporate partnership refers to the relationship between a company and a charitable organization in which the company provides support to help advance the nonprofit’s cause.
Partnerships may benefit nonprofits on an ongoing basis or may be tied to a specific event.
In exchange for their support, corporate partners normally receive some form of marketing or branding from the nonprofit and are able to demonstrate their philanthropic efforts to employees and the wider marketplace.
Different Nonprofit Partnership Models
Corporate partnerships take many forms and don’t always include monetary donations. For example, businesses can help nonprofits by providing introductions, financial advice, or even coordinating volunteers.
However, it’s common for most partnerships to take one of the following forms:
- Financial partnerships – This is when companies provide direct financial support to nonprofits. Monetary support can come in the shape of donations, matching pledges, or might even be provided by covering expenses for an event like the venue costs.
- In-kind partnerships – This is when companies donate goods or services free of cost to support nonprofits. Common examples of in-kind partnerships include free use of a venue for an event, sponsored prizes, or even free catering.
- Media partnerships – In this model, a company provides free promotion on behalf of the nonprofit across various marketing channels such as social media, radio, or TV.
- Employee giving – Companies often create philanthropic programs for their employees to take advantage of consisting of volunteer hours or automatic donations deducted from payroll.
Nonprofits should consider their organization’s goals and needs before approaching corporate partners so they can receive the type of support that is most useful.
The Most Important Question: Why Should Sponsors Work With Your Nonprofit?
Many nonprofits focus on the advantages of corporate partnerships for their own organization.
This is fair because the benefits are many, including:
- A diversified and stable funding source
- Increased brand awareness and reputation from exposure to the corporation’s audience and market
- New supporters and volunteers from the corporation’s employee base and customer base
- New connections and relationships afforded by the company’s sphere of influence
However, when it comes to finding and securing new corporate partnerships, the focus needs to be on what the company gets out of sponsoring your nonprofit.
Pitching the value your nonprofit provides to partners is the only way to rise above the sea of solicitations corporations receive from other charities.
One of the most effective ways we have helped nonprofits attract corporate partners is to create a co-branded resource around a relevant cause and commit marketing dollars to promote it.
This works well for two reasons:
- Co-creating valuable content, in the form of a whitepaper, quiz, or otherwise, leverages the unique subject matter expertise within the partner’s company
- Committing advertising dollars to promote the resource ensures the sponsor gets free publicity and demonstrates that you have a vested interest
Here’s what a message might sound like if your nonprofit was an animal shelter wanting to work with a pet food company:
“Because your company is an expert at animal health, I thought we could partner to create a resource on how to serve healthy meals for pets who can’t eat typical pet food and then my nonprofit can promote the guide online.”
When you structure your ask like this the pitch is easy.
And, if your nonprofit makes use of Google’s or Microsoft’s ad grant program, the advertising commitment doesn’t cost your organization anything out of pocket either.
We’ll show you how to make this offer as part of an email template later in the article, but first, let’s talk about getting your message into the right hands through email.
Why We Recommend Email to Attract Corporate Partners
There are so many outreach methods when it comes to contacting potential partners, from LinkedIn connections to Facebook messages to the old-fashioned phone call.
But email rises to the top as the most scalable and effective choice for nonprofits who don’t want to waste time and energy tracking down sponsors.
That’s because nearly everyone has an email address and most people read it daily, especially in professional settings. Plus, studies have found email to be 40 times more effective than social media channels when it comes to customer acquisition.
With email, your nonprofit can craft a compelling pitch and use the same template for multiple conversations.
So now that we’ve sold you on the power of email, let’s put it into practice with a simple guide for reaching out to corporate partners.
4 Simple Steps to Build Corporate Partnerships With Email
Although starting a relationship over email might seem difficult, the truth is your message has a good chance of landing if it’s sent to the right person and it’s structured in a compelling way.
In fact, we’ve seen response rates from corporate partners of over 30% for certain campaigns run in the past.
Here’s a simple 4-step process your nonprofit can use to leverage email effectively:
- Build a list of qualified sponsors
- Find the right person’s email address
- Structure emails to get a response
- Remember to follow up
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Step #1: Build a List of Qualified Sponsors
Building corporate partnerships over email starts with the same process you would use for any other method.
The first step is to build a list of potential sponsors that are suitable for your nonprofit.
While there are many ways to find companies to reach out to (we list 26 approaches in our Corporate Partnerships Attraction Kit) the best ones boil down to two main strategies:
|Direct Partner Connection Examples||Indirect Partner Connection Examples|
|Board members and nonprofit employees that own or are closely associated with for-profit companies||Advertisers or search results for keywords that are relevant to your nonprofit’s mission|
|Existing individual donors or volunteers that are associated with for-profit companies||The Facebook pages of companies that are liked by or followed by people in your industry|
|Websites, podcasts, or other media channels that have already hosted or linked to your nonprofit||Companies that offer products or services that serve a need closely associated with your nonprofit’s mission|
As you build your list, it’s also important to qualify that each partner is worth reaching out to. We suggest looking for companies that:
- Have values aligned with your organization
- Have sufficient reach (measured in terms of employees, web traffic, or social media following)
- Have experience partnering with or sponsoring nonprofits in the past (through employee matching programs, volunteer programs, or donation campaigns)
- Have Marketing or Human Resources teams that can serve as points of contact
When your list is filled with high-quality organizations that empathize with your mission, your outreach efforts will be more successful.
Step #2: Find the Right Person’s Email Address
With a sharpened list of potential corporate partners in hand, the second step is finding the email addresses of specific people that work at each company.
While some corporations may have dedicated philanthropic departments, we’ve found more success reaching out to individuals in HR or Marketing to start a conversation.
Normally you can source the names of potential contacts by investigating a company’s website or searching for members on LinkedIn.
After you’ve found the names of suitable people at each company, you can find email addresses that are publicly available or use an email scraping tool to fill in the gaps.
Step #3: Structure Emails That Get a Response
Now comes the most important part – creating a captivating message that actually gets a reply.
Email messages to people that don’t know you or your organization yet need to be short and compelling.
Apart from some basic best practices like…
- Keeping sentences and paragraphs short
- Using plenty of white space
- Not including links or other media (which can be distracting)
- Writing in a personalized and informal manner
…we’ve also honed in on 5 key ingredients to a high-performing message:
|Cold Email Outline||Explanation and Purpose|
|Subject||A short and personalized subject line to address the reader. We suggest using a first name to catch their interest.|
|Hook||The first line of your email, designed to grab the reader’s attention and get them to read further.|
|Anchor||A section that creates trust and credibility by demonstrating a mutual connection or interest.|
|Win for partner||The purpose of your email, framed in a way that is valuable to the recipient|
|Ask||A short question that asks the contact to take the next step|
We’ll give you a sample email that covers all of these components in the next section but feel free to check out our Corporate Partnership Attraction Kit for dozens of specific ideas.
Step #4: Remember to Follow Up!
In a sense, building corporate partnerships is a bit like selling. And any good salesperson knows that the money is made in the follow-up.
Don’t expect a response after the first email. Sometimes people are busy, are on vacation, or simply don’t have time to respond on the day you send your message.
While you don’t want to be pushy or create a bad image for your nonprofit, you’re likely to have more success if you send a few follow-on emails (statistically up to 5 times).
After that, if you still have no luck, you can try to reach them through another channel or touch base later on a different topic to stay top of mind.
An Email [Template] Any Nonprofit Can Use
To put this all into practice, here is a sample email your nonprofit can use to reach out to corporate partners starting today.
We’re going to imagine that we are a nonprofit focused on clean drinking water and are reaching out to a potential partner that sells water purifiers.
Customize this template to your nonprofit’s needs and let us know how it goes!
[Hook] I just gave your company’s new water filter a 5-star review.
[Anchor] My daughter and I love using it – the water tastes so much better than tap (and now I know it’s free of contaminants!) Here’s a screenshot of the review I left:
(Insert screenshot of review)
Why does my opinion matter here? Well, it doesn’t anymore than any of your other customers . . . but I can pretend it does because I’m the marketing director at a nonprofit that provides clean drinking water to people who can’t access it! 😉
[Win for them] Because your company cares so much about the health impacts of clean drinking water, I thought we could co-promote a survey that shows which communities globally lack access to clean water. We could collaborate on the design and my nonprofit can contribute advertising dollars to promote it – no cost to your organization.
[Ask] Are you interested?
As you can see, the email exchange is direct, valuable to the contact, and straight to the point.
We’ve used this approach to help various nonprofits build sponsor relationships with great success.
Most recently, we helped a nonprofit whose mission is to stop human trafficking make targeted connections with a renowned professor, a top lawyer overseeing trafficking cases, and a consumer app that helps parents protect kids from internet danger.
It works for all kinds of nonprofits and projects!
Opening Doors for Future Sponsorship
The benefit of starting corporate partnerships over email and collaborating with companies on a win-win project is that it opens the doors to more sponsorship opportunities.
Rather than applying to be one of many nonprofits supported by a large company’s charitable program, you’re creating personal relationships with important stakeholders at the corporation.
After the company sees the success of a small project like co-creating a whitepaper, your nonprofit should have an easier time asking for more significant support.
That’s why email is a great choice to build lasting relationships for your nonprofit.
Final note: If you have questions on anything covered in this article, contact us, or let us know how we can help your nonprofit build successful corporate partnerships directly.