Practical Tips for Selling Cause Partnerships to Corporate Sponsors

Cone logo All of ecoAmerica's programs involve forming strategic partnerships that have a connection to our target audiences. Cone posted an excellent guide on what a nonprofit should take to the table and be aware of when approaching a potential corporate sponsor or partner. Finding a corporate sponsor with the right fit for your organization or program provides limitless leverage to your initiatives.

Posted Jan. 26, 2010
By Emily Nichols, Account Supervisor, Knowledge Leadership, Cone Inc.

Cause sponsorship remains the fastest-growing slice of the sponsorship pie, projected to grow 6.1% in 2010,
according to IEG. As a nonprofit, finding the support to keep your
organization growing is more crucial than ever. No matter your size,
now is an ideal time to tap into the power of cause marketing by
aligning your organization with like-minded companies who see the
strategic value of association with a cause. Here are a few tips for
getting started on your selling journey:

  • Create guidelines. While corporate partnerships
    are a proven method to grow revenue, expand relevance and enable
    program delivery, even more important is protecting your organization’s
    brand and reputation. Before you begin the selling process, convene the
    key stakeholders in your organization and come to consensus around what
    types of companies/industries you will and will not partner with. Put
    these decisions on paper and make a simple process for determining if
    new companies fit your standards moving forward.

  • Recognize that it’s not just about the cause.
    Coming from a nonprofit background myself, I still find it hard to
    believe – but many companies won’t be sold on supporting your work
    simply because it is important or meaningful. While you should
    absolutely educate the company on the social benefit of your
    organization’s work, your primary job is to show sponsors that
    association with your work will positively impact their bottom line. A
    great resource for data to support your case is Cone’s Research and Insights page.

  • Prepare to sell. Ensure that the program or
    package you’re selling has a specific target audience, multiple points
    of engagement and a built-in plan to measure success. Develop solid
    criteria and objectives about the types of organizations you want to
    work with, research which have a history of (or potential of)
    supporting cause programs and approach each with its own tailored

  • Find the right contact. Don’t overlook networking
    – you never know when your plumber’s cousin or mom’s best friend might
    be your ticket to that breakthrough meeting. If you don’t already know
    the right person, look first for contacts with marketing or brand
    responsibilities, (they typically have the promotions budget) and
    quickly identify if they have access to the tools that make things
    happen at your target company: decision-making authority, budget
    ownership or a weekly golf date with the CEO.

  • Know their WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”). Do
    detailed research on a prospective partner before the first meeting.
    Tailor your pitch to their needs and share initial ideas of what you
    envision a partnership becoming. Be clear about the benefits they will
    receive as a sponsor and show how their key audiences will engage with
    the program, and by extension, their brand.

  • Close the deal. Don’t let the “ask” linger. Set
    out a timeline by which you need a decision. Simply ask – what would it
    take for you to say YES to this opportunity?

And always remember – love your sponsors! No matter what
organization you represent – the sponsor is taking a risk by committing
to a partnership. Recognize this and delight them with your attention
and recognition and you’ll be on the road to creating a true

– Emily Nichols, Account Supervisor

No Responses to “Practical Tips for Selling Cause Partnerships to Corporate Sponsors”

  1. Thanks for the posting! Hope our team caught it!

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