Blog home

Attracting your best corporate partner

By Jessica James
January 24, 2020

Photo by Thomas Drouault on Unsplash

Imagine going on a first date with someone you think you’re really interested in. I know the rules have changed a lot since I’ve been in the game, but I bet some things have stayed the same. Even if you’re thinking, “This is the one!” would you text your potential partner ahead of the date, “I don’t mind where we go!” or, “I’m happy to pay!” Would you tell them, even if you picked an upscale spot for dinner, “You can wear a T-shirt and jeans or whatever you’d like, just please show up!”

Again, I’m a bit rusty, but my guess is no. Even if your heart is screaming, “I LOVE THIS PERSON!” your brain is saying, “Play it cool.” And, hopefully also with some practice, your heart starts to add in something like this: “You think they’re so special, but you’re pretty special too … and you deserve someone brilliant and outstanding. So let’s see how they show up and how they treat you and then we can decide about the next date.”

So here’s the deal, my nonprofit lovers. It’s the same situation when you’re courting a corporate partner.

For so long we’ve been told that we would be lucky to have them and that we should be lucky for whatever we get.

But guess what? Just as with finding a partner, this attitude of scarcity doesn’t serve us. Nor does it attract the collaborators we want!

When we show up fully aware of our strengths, gifts, talents, and all we have to offer the other side, we become infinitely more attractive. And when we ask our partner to show up in a way that matches our value, the craziest thing happens—they usually do. And if they don’t, then we are freed to use our energy toward finding the right one that will.

What does this actually look like in a nonprofit/corporate partnership? We’ll be discussing this question in-depth at the webinar Nurturing Corporate Relationships: Converting Prospects into Partners on February 13, but here are some initial ideas to get you in the right mindset:

You, the nonprofit partner, offer enormous value to the corporate partner. Its leaders are hungry for the meaningful, fun, joyful experiences that YOU can open up to them. For the opportunity to escape from behind their desks and do something that makes them feel proud, connected, and hopeful. Its employees are clamoring for more purpose in their work, investors and shareholders are demanding that the company broaden its purpose to benefit society, and consumers are making choices motivated by their social and political beliefs more than ever before.

You can help that company be what its employees, investors, shareholders, and consumers want it to be.

Owning your power and the value you bring to the equation will change the tenor of any conversation or pitch you have with a corporation. Instead of desperation and an attitude of “We’re so grateful for whatever you can give us,” you begin by painting the pictures of your transformative services, your resourceful leadership, and what it takes to run your business.

You invite the company to participate in a volunteer opportunity that will leave its leaders and staff wanting more. When they sign up to attend, you tell them what is expected of them—to come prepared, to know their audience, and please—no matching T-shirts!

And then, when they are all in, you tell them how much it costs to do business with you. You don’t flinch or stutter, because you aren’t begging. You’re inviting them to do something that will change their culture, improve their brand, and drive their bottom line. It shouldn’t be cheap.

So when you meet with that potential corporate mate, remember all of the goodness you are bringing. Remember how important your work is. Talk about it with pride, name your price, and don’t worry about a “no.” Because if someone doesn’t get you, they weren’t meant for you anyway.

Join me on February 13 to learn the specifics of how to identify corporate prospects, cultivate them, make the ask, and keep them around for a long and happy partnership. Register now

Tags: Corporate social responsibility; CSR; Nonprofit-corporate partnerships