How to Build Successful Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

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Published:

June 24, 2023

Last Updated:

July 7, 2023

Partnering with a corporation can be highly beneficial for a nonprofit organization, helping to provide a steady source of income while also improving the company’s reputation.

These corporate nonprofit partnerships can help nonprofits make a bigger impact in the communities they serve, but landing and maintaining these relationships can often feel overwhelming.

Where do you start? What will make them pick you over another organization?

In this post, we are going to share everything you need to know about how to build successful corporate nonprofit partnerships.

Let’s dive in.

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Importance of Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

Handshake

A corporate nonprofit partnership is a mutually beneficial relationship between two entities—-a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization—in support of a common goal.

Most often, the for-profit company will make contributions, whether monetary or in-kind, to the nonprofit organization to help further their impact and make a difference in the world around them. In return, the corporation will get some sort of positive recognition, such as their logo listed on the nonprofit’s website, in promotional material, etc.

There are different types of partnerships corporations can make with nonprofit organizations, including sponsorships, employee match programs, grantmaking, and more.

If done right, corporate nonprofit partnerships can be highly beneficial for all parties involved. Here are some of the most common benefits both nonprofits and for-profit companies can get out of these relationships:

Benefits for Nonprofits

Nonprofits have a lot to gain when they partner with corporations. Here are a few reasons why corporate partnerships are so important to nonprofits.

More Funding

One of the biggest benefits nonprofits get from partnering with corporations is more funding. These relationships often involve formal financial commitments, often with set funding goals for the year.

Nonprofit organizations can build corporate funding into their budgets, allowing for even more programming throughout the year. This support can be a great consistent revenue stream that can diversify your budget.

Elevated Visibility

Corporate partnerships also bring elevated visibility to all involved parties, especially the nonprofit.

Your partnership is often highlighted by the corporation as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts, so your nonprofit organization might be included on their website, annual reports, social media posts, and more—essentially any place where they want to highlight the ways in which they give back to the community.

For example, Commonwealth, a nonprofit that focuses on raising awareness about how fintech can be used to benefit the financially vulnerable, partners with J.P. Morgan Chase to amplify their work. This partnership adds credibility and increasing public awareness.

Enhanced Credibility

Along with elevated visibility, a corporate partnership will also enhance your nonprofit’s credibility.

After all, if a large company wants to partner with you, then you’re probably a trustworthy organization that’s creating real impact. You will be more trusted by guests, communities, and other companies when they see a respected company working with you.

Benefits for Corporations

Nonprofits aren’t the only ones who reap the benefits of a corporate nonprofit partnership. Companies also profit when they join forces with nonprofits, and here are some ways how:

Corporate Social Responsibility

How a company shows up is becoming more and more important to audiences, and a big part of that is its corporate social responsibility. Kohl’s does a great job of highlighting this on their website, showcasing the different ways they are looking to leave the world a better place.

Kohl’s

Partnering with a nonprofit is a great way to prove that your company is giving back to the community in meaningful and consistent ways. You are not just being fiscally responsible through your operations, you are also being socially responsible to the world around you.

Drive Employee Engagement

Partnering with a nonprofit organization is a great way to drive employee engagement. Employees want to work at places that give back. It gives them pride in their company and inspires them too to get involved with the organization by volunteering or donating.

Also, when employees feel like they are a part of something bigger, they feel more connected to their employer.

Boost Reputation

Finally, giving back can help boost a company’s reputation, both in the industry and with the communities in which they serve.

It’s good optics that companies aren’t just about making a profit. Instead, they also care about re-investing a portion of their profits to help those in need. It speaks volumes about who you are and what you stand for.

Key Steps for Building Successful Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

Process

It can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to building a successful corporate nonprofit partnership. After all, there are many nonprofits out there, why should a company choose to work with you?

Here are seven actionable steps to help you through the entire relationship lifecycle.

1. Identify Corporations to Partner With

As you’re trying to identify a corporation to partner with, you’ll want to create a shortlist.

To start, look for companies that align with your values, what you’re hoping to accomplish, and that operate in the same community in which you serve.

Enchanted Makeovers

For example, Enchanted Makeovers is dedicated to helping transform homeless shelters so women and their families can have an inviting space as they get on their feet. If they were looking to build a corporate partnership, it wouldn’t make as much sense to reach out to a men’s apparel company to partner with. Instead, they would look to craft shops and home goods stores.

Use this same thought process when you are looking to identify corporations to partner with.

You want corporate partners who can be in a symbiotic relationship with you. During your research, you can also read about a company’s earnings, check their annual reports, and look up recent news coverage to see if they are walking the talk.

All of these resources can help inform if the partnership is a good idea.

2. Research Key Contacts

Now that you know what organizations you are interested in partnering with, it’s time to look up key contacts.

You want to look for members of their community relations or corporate social responsibility teams. Often, annual reports will include names of people who are involved in this work, so you can start gathering their contact information.

You can also network and look for people you may have in common who can help introduce you. These connections can be critical in helping you get to the decision-makers in an organization. Some companies may have organized application processes to help connect nonprofits with funding, while others are okay with you going directly to the staff.

3. Draft Your Ask

Now that you have the right contact information, you need to start drafting your ask.

You need to make a compelling case for the partnership, so make sure to explain your organization, the good you and the company could do together in the community, and a clear ask for what you’re hoping for.

Include your own contact information so the company knows who to reach out to in response. Approach the corporate nonprofit partnership ask much like you would approach a donor for a major gift. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it feels incredible!

4. Set Clear Guidelines

Once you’ve landed a partnership, it’s essential that you set clear guidelines you both feel comfortable with. You want to outline key information like:

  • Goals - What do you hope to accomplish with this partnership? And, more importantly, how are you going to achieve them?
  • Metrics to measure success - How will you know that your relationship is going well? Are there any key performance indicators that will help you measure? Your metrics should go hand in hand with your goals.
  • Reporting frequency - How often should you report to ensure you’re on track? Does the corporation want reports on how funds are allocated? Does the nonprofit want reports on how fundraising is going?
  • Approval process - Who are the decision makers? What needs to be approved?

No detail is too small, so you want to make sure that it’s all set out in writing so there is no confusion down the line.

5. Establish Open Communication Channels

As you work through the corporate nonprofit partnership, you need to make sure that you have clear communication expectations from the start. Identify preferred communication channels, including email, phone, or in-person meetings.

Make sure you understand the chain of command and communicate appropriately based on the issue at hand. Driving clarity from the start will ensure the lines of communication are open both ways should an issue arise. Bad communication can unintentionally sabotage a partnership, so make sure that you set yourself up for success with clear expectations.

6. Promote the Partnership

One of the best parts of corporate nonprofit partnerships is looking for ways to celebrate and promote them with the world!

For example, if your corporation is helping a nonprofit raise money for cancer research, you can quantify the number of hours of research your donations have funded. Share that figure with your employees and audience so they can feel like they are a part of something bigger.

Promoting the partnership will only lead to increased visibility, which can lead to more funding, organic donations, and volunteers.

7. Evaluate the Partnership

You should always be evaluating your partnerships, identifying what worked well, what didn’t, and how they can improve in the future.

Continually seeking feedback from your partners is a great way to improve, stay relevant, and innovate. It may be tempting to secure a partnership agreement and forget about it, but you should always be actively cultivating and fostering those relationships.

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Key Considerations for Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

Mind

As you look to build strong corporate nonprofit partnerships that are mutually beneficial, here are some key considerations to keep in mind.

Type of Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

There are different types of corporate nonprofit partnerships available.

Here are five of the most common.

  • Corporate sponsorship, which is when a corporation can sponsor a nonprofit’s event or program. For example, an organization can pay to have their logo on t-shirts, booths, signage, and other materials that have high visibility.
  • Workplace giving program, which is when employees are able to contribute directly to an organization from their paychecks. They self-elect a donation, and this amount will be contributed in perpetuity unless canceled. Many employers will even offer a matching gift program to increase the impact you can make.
  • In-kind donations, which is when you donate something in place of money. This could still have a monetary value. For example, you could donate tickets to a concert to a charitable raffle. The tickets still cost something, but they could raise more than they are worth.
  • Cause marketing, which is when there is an agreement that a certain amount of purchase will be donated to the nonprofit. For example, a retailer may sell a bracelet and other small items during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. They may say that 100 percent of the proceeds go to benefit the nonprofit, so not only is the retailer getting their items out there, they look good while doing it.
  • Grantmaking, which is when a nonprofit receives a lump sum to help their programming and operations, depending on the grant. Grants can be through companies, governments, individual funders, and more. There are many resources available to help you identify and land grant opportunities.

Each of these options have different pros and cons, so make sure to nail down your goals before picking a type of partnership.

Tax Breaks and Shared Benefits

Companies can write off gifts to charitable organizations, including those made as a part of a corporate nonprofit partnership. This is a fantastic way to offset costs, helping give the company a tax break.

Nonprofits have tax-exempt status, and while that won’t extend to a company, they do have the benefits of joining forces with one.

Ultimately, companies want to know what’s in it for them, so you need to be able to paint them that picture. List out the benefits of partnering with you, and lean into the impact they can make. Be sure to tell them what their gifts will do for your organization and how they will help you serve the community.

Now’s the time to dust off those storytelling skills and let them know what only you can offer them and the community around them. By partnering with you, they can be part of an important legacy.

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Challenges and Pitfalls of Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships

Difficulties

Even though there are many benefits to partnering with nonprofits, there are also some challenges that can sour even the best of relationships. Let’s explore four of the most common that corporate nonprofit partnerships face, as well as tips and tricks on how to avoid them.

Unclear Expectations

Make sure that you and your corporate partners have clear expectations from the start on how their funds will be used. Keep it in writing and revisit it as you look to allocate resources to prevent confusion.

For example, perhaps a company gives you a $10,000 gift to fund research, but you only use half of it for research and the other half to fund operational costs. Once you report back on the impact of their gift, there may be some disappointment in how their funds were allocated because it went against their intentions.

Change in Budgets

If a company isn’t doing well or misses forecast for a quarter, oftentimes, the first thing they will cut is their charitable giving budget. This means projected commitments can be slashed in half, and if you don’t have a contract in place, you don’t have much recourse.

To be successful, nonprofits should have diverse revenue streams, including a mix of donations, grants, earned income, and, of course, corporate partnerships. You should not rely on any single stream of revenue to solely fund your operations.

Misaligned Missions

As a nonprofit, you want to find a corporation that aligns with your mission. You want your organizations to feel symbiotic, but there’s always a risk that the companies you associate with will fall into a bad reputation or take actions that don’t align with your mission.

For example, if you’re an animal rights nonprofit, you don’t want to partner with an organization that sells fur. Before you commit to partnerships, make sure that you look closely at what they do behind the scenes as well as publicly to make sure that it’s a good fit.

Wrapping Up: The Next Steps

Partnership

It’s important to learn how to build successful corporate nonprofit partnerships so that you can further advance your mission.

There are so many benefits to corporate nonprofit partnerships for both parties, including additional funding, boosted visibility, and increased engagement. Companies also see positives following a nonprofit partnership, helping to enhance their reputation with their audiences.

We hope this article has helped you learn how to approach a partnership with a corporation in your community. For more fundraising tips, resources, and best practices, check out Instrumentl’s blog.

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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