Maximize corporate partnerships

Are you counting down to year-end and wondering how to raise more money from your corporate sponsors and partners?

If this sounds like you then the information shared in this blog post is just what you need. I’m going to give you four things to do, and one thing not to do before year-end to maximize your year-end revenue for your charity or nonprofit.

I’m Heather Nelson and I’m a Corporate Sponsorship Specialist. I help nonprofits and charities of all sizes raise more money from companies. My boutique consultancy BridgeRaise focuses entirely on corporate partnerships and corporate sponsorships for nonprofits. Therefore we see all the best practices and have tried all the things.

And with that experience, I’ve put together the following suggestions to help you maximize your year-end.

You’ve got this and I can help.

Okay, let’s get started.

Number one (it’s the best one because it’s all about revenue): Make a small year-end discreet ask.

What does that mean? Something specific, a certain amount of money for a certain activity, or just ask if they will give you support related to a very specific activity. What do I mean by this? Staff parties, customer gifts, year-end acknowledgments. All of these things are things that many companies give money for, so this is your chance. Reach out and ask your partners to pick your organization. Honestly, I’m a small business and every year we give out a number of gifts to nonprofits and charities that we really like. I let my staff pick a couple. Maybe organizations in your sphere are doing that too. And honestly, the big companies do it too. The last couple of years, big splashy parties haven’t been a thing– gifts to nonprofits totally have. So make sure that you’re on their radar for that opportunity.

Number two: Build on year-end activities.

Giving Tuesday, Black Friday, happy new year, all the religious holidays. Depending on your nonprofit, one of these is bound to resonate. Use that as an opportunity to reach out and ask. If you have a special campaign associated with Black Friday or Giving Tuesday, great. But even if you don’t, this time of year are times that signal gifts to companies. So it’s your chance to ask. Be creative, wrap it around one of those events and do some outreach. You’ll be happy you did.

Number three: Make some phone calls and say, thank you.

I know it seems like this one’s not about money, but honestly, it is. Just like when you ask for advice, you get money.

Many of us know when you say thank you, you can also get money. You’re putting yourself on their radar. That’s a good thing. So I encourage you, try it, reach out to some of your corporate partners and say thank you at this time of year and see what happens. Let me know in the comments below. Do you make regular, thank you calls to your corporate partners? Put “yes” in there if you do. I’d love to see it. Honestly, I truly think this is one of the best parts of the job. Everybody thinks to do that with individuals. Companies love to hear it too. Your corporate contact is working hard for you, so say thank you.

Need some ideas? I have a download that will give you a number of ideas on how you can say thank you – a little creatively.

Number four:  Fulfilling on your commitments.

Year-end is the perfect time to look back through what you’ve promised during the year to different companies and make sure you did it. If you didn’t, even if it was supposed to happen in the spring or maybe in the summer, now’s the time you can catch up. A few extra, thank you posts on social media, a blog that says thank you to all your corporate partners at year-end. These are opportunities for you to make sure that you fulfilled your commitment.

It’s a great time of year to double-check it all and fill in any of the blanks. But if that doesn’t feel comfortable, for whatever reason you’re thinking, “no, you know what? I don’t want to do a post at the end of the year to say, thank you. We’re really all in on our holiday campaign.” That’s okay. Do you know what you need to do?

If you have missed on a deliverable, this is the time to call. Make the call in the month of November. Get it over with. A clean slate for the new year. This is a time to apologize and figure out how it could be solved maybe in the new year, what different thing could you offer, but don’t leave them hanging. You don’t want to start the new year with a  negative call. So clean it up. It’s the perfect time.

Fulfill. But if you don’t want to, let’s use this time of year to clean it up. That way you can follow it up with a nice holiday greeting or a year-end thank you. And then when you contact them in January, fresh slate. I know that I love to start the new year without any of these loose ends hanging around. So, if you can, take a few extra hours over the next few weeks and clean up those loose ends, it will make January just seem so much fresher. So let’s recap.

The four DO’s – Number one: make a small discreet ask. Maybe something connected to the staff holiday party or customer giving at the end of the year. Number two, leverage all those year-end events. Giving Tuesday, Black Friday, the end of the year, all chances for you to leverage for an ask. Number three, express some gratitude, make some thank you calls and thank you outreaches. It’s a really nice way to end the year. Number four, make sure you fulfilled on your commitments, clean up any loose ends. What you might’ve noticed is all of these involve reaching out and connecting. When you’re doing relationship-first corporate sponsorship and partnership, any chance to connect is a valuable one.

So all of these strategies do involve connecting, sometimes asking for money or support, and sometimes just reaching out and being in touch. This to me is how you build the best sustainable partnerships. And that’s what we all want, right? Not just revenue from companies, but revenue that happens year after year.

These kinds of tips will help make that happen. All right now that you’ve stuck with me. I know what you’re waiting for.

The one thing not to do at year-end?

I hope this isn’t a surprise because it is around asking for money. I don’t think you should start year-end with a big ask. Why? In my mind, big asks involve a number of meetings, a bunch of follow-ups.

We’re going to build momentum around some cool creative ideas. And we’re going to build a proposal that we are both excited about. That’s the best-case scenario. So you start a big ask right before the holidays, and then there’s a big break, and you’re not sure when the person starts back in January, and maybe they don’t get back to you right away.

And all of a sudden we’re dealing with being ghosted and the thing is stale. And no one can remember the great ideas from the month, or maybe even two months before when we discussed it. This is a really hard way to start out a partnership. So, go lean into the small ask, lean into the discreet ask, lean into the different options for warming up the relationship.

Save the big meeting for January. Even put it on the calendar if that’s an opportunity that’s available to you so that you can really have a great rich discussion then. You could get all your materials ready in December if you have some extra time. No worries. But, you know, waiting until January to have the big conversation is my advice.

I really think it will help you build momentum towards a successful proposal. So that’s my DON’T. Don’t make a big ask that is directly related to a long-term partnership right at the holiday season. Unless there’s a real reason, like they have money sitting around and it’s December 31st is their deadline, that might be the exception. But, many companies don’t have December as their year-end.

And there’s no reason to rush the ask into the couple of weeks when everybody’s really thinking about taking holidays and staff gatherings and social time. We don’t want to lose momentum. So use this time before the year-end to warm up and stay away from the big ask, unless there’s a real reason.

Again, all of these ideas involve connecting. So to recap. Small discreet ask. Leverage the events that are happening. Say thank you. Fulfill on your commitments. And whatever you do, don’t start something big and complicated that can’t possibly be done in a few weeks before year-end. Save that till January.

Okay. I hope that helped. I really want all of you to raise more money from companies before year-end. If all of this is too much, just pick one idea and try it. So, reach out to some corporate partners and get it going.

And if you want to talk about corporate partnership and sponsorship on a regular basis with me, make sure you are signed up to receive our emails and make sure to subscribe to our videos on YouTube.

On our YouTube Channel, I do share practical tips, but I also am all about articles and best practices in corporate sponsorship and partnership. I share those articles on my LinkedIn page.

“Raising More Money From Your Corporate Partners, Prospects and Sponsors with Asks and Stewardship” recaps all the main points of this post and will give you a bunch of extra ideas on how to steward your corporate donors at this time of year. You can download it here.

I really hope that you have a great year-end and raise more money for the mission that matters to you.

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If you have any questions or need a little extra help reach out to me at [email protected]


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