Renew Corporate Partners and Get the Ones That Got Away

This post is by Brady Hahn, the founder of Non Profit Effect. In this 8-part series, Brady will teach you how to increase your fundraising and better prepare your nonprofit organization for events in 2012. Catch up on parts onetwothreefour, and five of this series.

“Undersell and over-deliver.”

It’s advice we’ve all heard and it couldn’t be more true. Getting over the fear of asking for what your organization needs takes practice. As we talked about last week, the more you reach out, the more opportunities you’ll create for your organization.

When a corporate sponsor gives you money, use it how you promised you will.

People ask for things everyday and don’t always get what they want, but it never hurts to ask. Besides, worst-case scenario a prospect says yes. Why would that be the worst thing you ask?  Because that’s when the real work starts and you have to put your “money where your mouth is.”

This is a vital step in your relationship with a prospect. If they put money on the table it is up to you and your team to make sure their funds get used appropriately. If they don’t, you won’t be hearing from them anytime soon. If they have a wonderful experience though, you will have a foundation to build on and evolve the relationship over time.

There are three things you need to always keep in mind for each partner:

  1. Ever find your small donors to be more demanding than a large donor ones? There is nothing worse than being drained by a relationship that should be inspiring and rewarding. Set boundaries and expectations early to educate your partner about what is appropriate for your organization.
  2. Keep in touch. A corporate partner is a celebrity in your organization, so treat them like one. Celebrate them when appropriate and be sure to send a handwritten thank you note at least once a year.
  3. Do what you say you are going to do with their money – every penny of it! Provide each partner with solid reporting of their funds and a nice re-cap of their involvement at the end of each year. Adding pictures of their employees volunteering or attending an event is always a nice touch!

If you are able to keep these three things in mind, you will build great relationships that you can build on and renew over time. You’ll find some companies want the same package every year, while others will need help finding a new place in the organization and will vary in their sponsorship level. That is OK, too.

Now, what about those prospects that you had countless calls or meetings with and they just never took the leap?

Those can be tricky. Some will be organizations that you’ll want to write off, because they will just never commit (or when they do, won’t feel like a great fit). You have to trust your gut here. The ones where timing just wasn’t right, you need to stay alert, and keep in touch, especially if new opportunities come to the table for your organization.

Chris Cotner, Executive Director of Water4, mentioned at this past year’s Vivanista Summit, that he enters the company and the name of any VIPs within the org to Google Alerts to get up-to-the-minute information without even having to hunt for it (I know you are saying to yourself, “why didn’t I think of that?!”).

If something interesting to you pops up, ping them by sending a short note referencing the article or news story they appeared in. It always feels good to be noticed and it’s a great way to stay on the radar and keep the conversation going. Be genuine about it though. Nobody likes a suck-up.

Each prospect will be different, but a good rule of thumb is to circle back quarterly to  present new opportunities. It’s like fishing, you have to figure out what the fish are eating before you can hook one.

In the rare case a sponsor or partner has a bad experience with your organization, you and your executive director need to reach out right away and then just listen. It can be time consuming and difficult, but can potentially provide the organization with invaluable feedback on performance and services.

  • Ask if they have any suggestions for a solution to any outstanding issues or problems.
  • Request if you can share their feedback confidentially with your team and board members as a learning opportunity.
  • If you can, let them know what solutions the team comes up with to solve those issues. This is a great way to build trust with the prospect and grow as an organization.
  • Thank them for their past time and support.

If things go well, you have left the door open for opportunity to move forward once things have had a chance to heal.

If you enjoyed these exercises today, be sure to come back next week for part six where you’ll learn how to measure success and accountability. I’d love to hear how this worked for you. Tweet me @bradyhahn or leave your comments below.