Finding the Suite Spot: Building Relationships with Corporate Partners (Part II)
Finding the Suite Spot is a three part blog series, written specifically for members of the nonprofit community. Part I focused on researching and defining the right corporate partner for your organization, customizing sponsorship opportunities and building strategic relationships (short or long term). In Part II, I will focus on the importance of building a sponsorship package, and identifying and creating the perfect “volunteer experience”. I’m going to share with you the three steps for building and sustaining successful partner relationships. Now that you feel more comfortable with getting your foot in the door using the techniques outlined in Part 1 and you have their attention, what’s next?
You may be wondering, what does a sponsorship package have to do with building a relationship? A lot depending on the corporation. The mindset of many community relations professions is beginning to shift with respect to the value-add from sponsorship of galas, runs and golf tournaments. Yes, brand awareness is a huge goal; however, what makes your gala stand out from others? Frankly, once a person attends a couple of galas, it becomes arduous to attend these types of events over and over. How do you overcome that? Here are a few suggestions:
- Consider presenting a package deal.
– While a gala, golfing event or run alone may not be enough to persuade an organization to donate funds, a combination of opportunities might be the answer. Perhaps a persuasive deal could include a combination of events and employee volunteer opportunities. A package deal ultimately shows that the agency is looking beyond the one-time event and is interested in truly getting the company engaged.
- Think outside the traditional event box.
– Some agencies are starting to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising and are raising record amounts of money as a result. Many are doing this by opting for a fun experience rather than a traditional one. Agencies are showing that they are not afraid to go big, be different, and find venues and personalities that will draw a crowd. I understand some smaller agencies may not be able to launch events in the same manner; however, there’s always a way to change things up a bit! For instance:
– Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta has an annual bowling event. It raises money while also offering sponsoring companies a chance to get in on the fun. Gas South uses this annual event as a team builder!
– Literacy Action, an adult literacy agency, hosted “Spellabration”. The event was held in a ballroom and had the appeal of a gala, but guests played games. Our sponsorship package included an opportunity to play a game of Scrabble with many for profit and nonprofit agencies in Atlanta and participate in a spelling bee. It turned out to be a well-attended and fun event that provided social interaction while raising a record amount of money. It was obvious that a lot of thought went into planning the event and it’s one we will sponsor again next year.
– MUST Ministries (Marietta, GA) replaced their traditional annual dressy gala with a large tailgate party held at the College Football Hall of Fame. The event was sold-out and provided attendees with the opportunity to see a brand new venue, take a tour, wear their favorite team jerseys, participate in a sports paraphernalia silent auction and meet retired University of Georgia Coach Vince Dooley. All of this was done while raising money for children and families. MUST even opted to forego the fancy food for true tailgate foods and sides like hot dogs and hamburgers which kept the event fun and casual.
In Part I, I touched on “Understanding Engagement Opportunities” and creating a volunteer experience. A growing number of corporations now request that agencies provide volunteer opportunities − a volunteer “experience” or a team building opportunity. When meeting with companies, be prepared to answer the following questions: Are you adequately staffed to host a group? What size group can you host? Is your staff open to this opportunity? These questions need to be considered when planning an event, and you need to be open and honest about what you can or cannot do. Conducting a volunteer event that you’re not prepared to handle can backfire – people typically do not shy away from sharing their experiences with others.
- Family-Focused Volunteer Experiences – In this era of work-life balance, consider offering a family-focused volunteer experience. Younger families are often looking for volunteer events which will engage the entire family, particularly if the event occurs on a weekend.
- Skills-Based Events – Companies often have, at their disposal, a plethora of skills and abilities that can aid nonprofits in their day-to-day operations. These “skills-based” opportunities often go untapped and offer even the smallest of players a chance to give back. Invite them to visit your agency, review some of your processes and create a win-win situation for you both parties. These projects have the potential to leave you with new technology, new training or perhaps free support!
Building relationships with corporate partners takes time and effort but if you put in that extra work and creativity, it could ultimately work to your benefit. What are some of the ways you have gone the extra mile or let your creative juices flow? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
The final part of this blog will cover the topic of sustaining the relationship.