Over the last 6 months, I have had the pleasure of engaging with several of the corporate fundraising biggies. You know who they are, the organizations that many of you admire (and maybe envy) because of the corporate partnerships they’ve been able to lockdown.

Speaking with them and listening to them at conferences reinforced some valuable lessons when it comes to corporate fundraising best practices.

Here are some highlights I’m excited to share:

1. Being nimble is an important part of building corporate partnerships

Nothing comes easy, and believe it or not, even large organizations have to work hard at being (and staying) nimble. It’s not easy to shift focus in order to meet the needs of a new stakeholder, in particular, if they are not well versed in the core mission of your organization. But when it comes to fundraising, flexibility is the name of the game. Whether you’re finding ways to include employee volunteers in your work, developing additional social media outreach, or adding a new element to your event, you must recognize the needs of your corporate partner and include them in your plans.

2. Relationship management is a key to success

It’s not the first time I have mentioned that building a connection with your corporate sponsor or partner is critical to a sustainable financial relationship, and it won’t be the last. Asking for money, building partnerships, and identifying mutual wins require collaboration. And collaboration is built on relationships and conversations. For that reason, all corporate relationships require a relationship lead. A relationship lead is someone who manages the communications and movement of the partnership even when others are involved. Large organizations have the advantage of staff capacity in this area. Small organizations have the advantage of more easily knowing every person and touchpoint involved. For both, the building and coordination of the partner relationship is critically important to success.

3. Much of what companies value are well within your wheelhouse

Throughout various meetings with leaders in corporate fundraising, I learned a great deal about what corporate partners value in, and from, their charitable partners. The biggest takeaway? Size doesn’t matter. Here are some of the biggest things that companies look for in a partner charity:

  • They want their charitable partner to profile the companies that support them consistently and with gusto.
  • They want their charitable partner to give their employees, and families of those employees, powerful, inspirational opportunities to get involved.
  • They want their charitable partner to do the leg work. Corporate partners expect and respect charities whose representatives are present, and persistent. Get out there and meet people constantly. If you’re a smaller charity, you might not be able to attend as many events, but you can certainly do outreach, and you can do it well.
  • They want their charitable partner to be patient. Don’t rush the process and remember that relationships take time to grow. Corporate fundraising takes over a year, so plan for that, and always be working towards the next step. 

So, while you may not be able to apply these strengths at the size and scope of the biggies—I mean, I know you can’t be as many places as a team of 10—you can get out to at least one community event or conference each month. And while your profiling may not be seen by many people, it can be seen by your people and that’s what really matters.

In the end, the most important lesson that I want to share is this – be YOU! These big charities have things they can do that you can’t, but smaller charities have advantages too. From keeping track of all of the relationship touchpoints – because you’re doing them! To staying nimble and acting quickly in response to the needs of your corporate partner. Just be patient and remember that you are creating something sustainable that is built to last.

If you want to vent about what they have and you don’t, I will listen – but only for a couple of minutes. Then I expect you to pick up your socks and start to focus on identifying your strengths and how to use them to reach your corporate fundraising goals. Need some help getting past the hump? Email me and let’s chat.

You’ve got this!

P.S If you know a fundraiser at a charity that could use support, please let them know about my free resources. They can sign up: here