4 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Establish a Lasting Business Partnership

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Cause marketing relationships between nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and for-profit businesses (FPBs) have produced mutually beneficial synergies time and time again. The benefits of establishing lasting relationships between NPOs and FPBs can be significant–to both parties.

The nonprofit can advance its mission through association and sponsorship by a recognized business, without investing its own limited resources. The business can raise brand awareness, demonstrate social responsibility, and boost customer interest in its products or services. In fact, a 2010 Cone Inc. study cites that 80 percent of Americans are willing to switch brands–of equal quality and nature–if a brand supports a good cause. But how does a nonprofit begin the search for a lasting relationship with a business? I spoke with several industry experts–from both NPOs and FPBs–to determine what steps a nonprofit organization should take to begin and ultimately achieve an enduring cause marketing relationship.

1) Assess Your Goals — Bruce Burtch, author of “Glowing Your Business,” asks, “Is the organization building a new facility, trying to add a new service, hosting an exhibition or an event, or simply trying to raise money for their organization?”

2) Develop a Shortlist of Potential Business Partners — Burtch says, “Search for organizations aligned with the mission and philosophy of the nonprofit.” As an example, he suggests, “If you are trying to build a homeless shelter, look for construction companies, architects, etc.”

3) Begin Some Conversations — Catherine Chapman, CFRE at Fullanthropy, says, “Clearly spell out how they will benefit from working with you. Be creative. Placing a banner ad on your event’s program or on your website is a meaningless ‘benefit.’ If you present it as a benefit, you’ll lose credibility with the prospective company.”

4) Initiate and Nurture the Relationship — Communicate openly and constantly. Demonstrate that there is an ROI. Chapman says, “Track as many benefits to the company you can–so you can prove a strong ROI.”

Today, cause marketing efforts have even more opportunity to gain visibility through social media platforms. Positive visibility can be rendered and quickly spread when a nonprofit organization or a for-profit business gains even a single mention, Tweet, comment, or publicity on a social media platform. Consider the near-immediate impact the announcement of a synergy between a NPO and FPB could have. Given the Cone study, customers highly value socially responsible companies.

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