The Power of Partnerships...
Finding the perfect match!

By Donna Glanzman

Corporate and individual giving are the lifeline of America's non-profits. The generosity of the Columbus community with its corporate headquarters and obvious philanthropic culture is envied by many major cities.

Successful fundraising is based on finding the right match. Corporate partners are a key to this process. A successful donor/non-profit relationship is based on five things...

Goals: Is the corporate goal is focused on families, females or education? What is the mission of the non-profit? Do these two potential partners have a consistent, compatible vision for serving the community?

Common Interests: Is the corporation searching for a meaningful, long term relationship with the community? Does the corporation give through grants, in-kind services, event sponsorships? Where does the non-profit need to use the gift?Can the donation be leveraged against matching funds or public grants?

Leadership: Has the corporate family been touched by the charity or have volunteers there already? Has the non-profit board a need for the expertise of certain businesses to ensure it succeeds? Are there roles the corporate partner can fill in the vision of the non-profit?

Appreciation: How does the non-profit recognize their donors? What is the visibility opportunity for the corporation? What are the expectations for short and long-term involvement? Can the corporation recommend a public relations path for the charity that will benefit both in funds raised, people served, and long term stability?

Finances: What is the corporate giving budget? When are the decisions made and by whom for fiscal year gifts? Are there discretionary funds within a fiscal year for unique or emergency requests? How are gifts year commitment, three year...annual gift, monthly or employee matching?

All of these points require research on both sides. It is incumbent on the charity to work closely with the corporation and keep lines of communication open throughout the decision making process. The charity should plan early and approach the target businesses many months before fiscal decisions are made/ The larger the company and the greater the request, the earlier the appeal should be made. I recommend six months before budgets are identified and for many companies, budgets for a calendar year are set in September, which means the non-profits must begin their solicitations in early spring. This requires diligent planning and organization by the group.

It is extremely important to realize that donors have certain expectations for their gifts. Some hope to remain anonymous. Others give "in honor" or "in memory" of someone; still others give because they believe it is the right thing to do both financially, and morally.

Corporations give for many of these same reasons but they are also cognizant of the impact the gift will have on not only their bottom line, but also their image. The way the company will be recognized should be an important part of the socialization process and there should be no misgivings about trying to utilize non-profit partnerships as key ways to promote philanthropic goals. Naming rights, presenting sponsorships of fundraising events, Board appointments, volunteer opportunities for employees and of course, publicity are just a few of the ways recognition can be given to donors at any level. Identify projects that would be of joint interest to the corporation and the charity especially when in-kind services would offset expenses. Consider approaching corporations to donate portions of annual advertising contracts to be allocated to the non-profit ensuring unique visibility opportunities for the non-profit.

Remember that competition is a part of the giving process as in any other phase of business. Offering non-compete partnerships or event sponsorships enhances the value for the company. Providing a chance for the corporate service or product to be the only one of its type visible as part of the recognition, the project or the event is another very valuable part of recognizing the relationship between the donor and the charity. Serving Coca-Cola products at an event where Pepsi is a major sponsor would be an obvious mistake in an otherwise great partnership. Non-profits can negotiate with venues to avoid conflicts of this type. As in all ventures...think outside the box when approaching potential corporate donors.

No matter what side of the fundraising aisle you may a decision-maker for the corporate gift or the volunteer seeking funds...the goals are always the same. Find common ground for both the charity and the donor. Ensure recognition that is compatible with the gift and demonstrates the importance of the donation. Match the visibility with the corporate culture and analyze the results. The key to all of this is research...the charity must know the corporation that is being approached. Understand where the employees give their time. Be assured that where the company leadership is focused in the distribution of their own time, talents and treasures can be a clear picture as to where the company will be focused.