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Eight Key Actions Nonprofits Should Take When Pursuing Sponsors

Expert Panel, Forbes Nonprofit Council

Successful nonprofit executives from Forbes Nonprofit Council offer firsthand insights on nonprofit leadership & trends.

Nonprofits often choose to turn to the corporate world to secure the necessary funds to continue running their campaigns and raise greater awareness for their cause. In turn, many corporate sponsors choose to partner with nonprofits as a way to give back to the community and raise their standing with the local audience at the same time.

However, when a nonprofit decides to seek corporate funding, they need to lay the groundwork to make their cause attractive to the corporate world. To this end, eight members of Forbes Nonprofit Council share what they see as necessary actions for nonprofits seeking corporate funding, and explain why those operations are essential to success.

Forbes Nonprofit Council members suggest nonprofits take these thoughtful steps when pursuing corporate sponsorship.


1. Practice What You Preach

When nonprofits and corporate sponsors join hands, they need to be clear on where they stand. One way to know that you're moving in the right direction is by doing a values check, not just in words, but in deeds. For example, diversity, equity and inclusion are important values of my organization; therefore, it's important that our sponsor demonstrates these values. Are they practicing what they preach? - Kimberly Lewis, Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc.

2. Set Clear Boundaries

Corporate sponsors are often a lifeline for nonprofits. And yet, before you start pursuing them you have to have perfect clarity on what you would and what you would not negotiate. The mission and the values of the organization come first and can't be compromised. And it has to be a partnership between equals rather than a one-sided transaction. Knowing which line not to cross is crucial. - Magdalena Nowicka Mook, ICF (International Coach Federation)

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3. Know Your Brand, Know Their Brand

A nonprofit enterprise must know its own brand equity. The nonprofit must also know the brand of the prospective corporation. Engaging a prospective corporate sponsor with high brand affinity creates the opportunity of strategic mutuality. What is strategic mutuality? It is the nonprofit and corporate sponsor who create benefit to both brands that otherwise would not be realized! - Jesse Bethke Gomez, Metropolitan Center for Independent Living

4. Tune Into WIIFM (What's In It For Me?)

Researching the company to better understand their needs is a critical first step. There are many charities with compelling missions competing for the same corporate funding, and companies usually make decisions based on their own best interest. Knowing how a partnership with your organization can help the company achieve its goals will allow you to tailor your approach. - Gina Parziale, Gina Parziale Consulting

5. Have A Strict Conflict Of Interest Policy

Nonprofits must adhere to a strict conflict of interest policy when aligning with corporate sponsors. Reputation is everything, and if alignment questions the organizations' integrity, it cannot be done. - Maureen O'Brien, New York State Industries for the Disabled

6. Map Your Existing Community

Your strongest advocates are always the people who have experienced your mission and impact directly—your existing nonprofit community. We map where our existing community works and we ask them for their support in becoming our internal champions for corporate sponsorship opportunities. In this way, we strengthen community relationships and build new pathways for funding. - Kristine Sloan, StartingBloc

7. Add Value To The Sponsor

Large corporations are approached by nonprofits every day with similar pitches and requests for sponsorship. The ideal way to get their attention and build a longer term relationship is by clearly articulating what value your nonprofit brings to their brand through association. The more unique your value, the higher the chances of securing their sponsorship and being a long-term partner. - Deboshree Dutta, Women in Product | PayPal

8. Engage Corporate Volunteers

Nonprofits can meaningfully engage corporations with their mission by providing opportunities for corporate volunteering. Volunteer opportunities increase awareness of the nonprofit’s work within the company, as well as personally engage senior-level employees and staff to generate corporate buy-in and sponsorship in the short and long term. - Meaghan Malloy, Independent Consultant

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