Smart people learn from their mistakes. Smarter people learn from others’ mistakes. But the smartest of all learn from others’ success.
By understanding how other corporate fundraisers have built and delivered major corporate partnerships, we are able to improve our own craft. We can learn lessons about account management, re-examine our prospect list and light the fire in our stomach of knowing that success isn’t just possible – it’s inevitable.
With that in mind, we asked five corporate fundraisers to share a recent win – and the valuable lesson they learnt from it.
The power of being honest
In October 2020, The Felix Project was approached by the marketing team of a luxury bag company to partner on their Christmas campaign. This campaign led to a strategic, long-term friendship, including the company making introductions to other companies and luxury designers.
Louise Bingham, Partnerships Manager, said, “As a small, local charity, working with a national brand could have been tricky. Right from the start, we were transparent and honest about our ability to support a public facing, cause-marketing campaign. We were particularly honest about our social media reach and the commitment we could give to PR. They were fantastic to work with, really engaged with the cause, and we are now benefiting from an extended strategic relationship.
“Having these open conversations right from the start helped us build strong relationships, open internal doors and has converted a short term product partnership into a strategic long term friendship between the business and the charity.”
We love this example from Louise because it demonstrates the power of being honest. By ensuring they were clear with the company about what they could deliver, they were able to provide a positive experience throughout the partnership and reap long term benefits.
Non-financial partnerships can be priceless
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are about to launch a new partnership with a professional sports team. The partnership will provide the sports team with sustainability resources and training for their employees, academy and team, focusing on strengthening links with the community.
Michele Duma, Partnerships Manager, said, “One of our strategic goals is to see one in four people taking action for nature’s recovery. That’s a big number for a local charity. By supporting and working with this partner, we can start to see how this might happen.
“They are followed by millions of people on social media and are loved and trusted by a much more diverse audience than our own. As an ambassador of our work they can influence behaviour change at a far greater rate than we could alone. Doing so will increase the impact of their own sustainability strategy.
“Together, we can help address the inequalities in access to nature and green spaces, and use the power of sport to create a fanbase of inspired supporters.”
This example from Michelle demonstrates the power of non-financial partnerships These partnerships often create value far beyond what a simple donation could achieve. As Michelle says, though this partnership does not have a financial value attached, it is actually “priceless”.
Our best opportunities are with current partners
SolarAid are celebrating the success of a recent £15,000 donation from a premium watch company. Jamie McCloskey, Director of Development, said, “As this company was an existing small partner we took on board the ‘Remarkable Way’ and it really worked for the growth of this partnership. We began by brainstorming our shared purpose and building an exciting and bespoke activities. We also built a strong relationship with our key contacts, which gave us the opportunity to engage them on an emotional level. We also secured time to pitch our compelling, commercial opportunities. We were also tenacious in our follow-up, with quality account management throughout, which enabled us to build trust and understanding of the impact of our work.”
This partnership demonstrates that our best opportunities are with current partners. We often engage our prospects with more excitement and joy than our existing partners, but the biggest opportunities are often right under our nose.
The power of patient persistence
Six months ago, the Blue Cross corporate partnerships team had a brilliant partnership idea perfect for a major sofa company. In the last fortnight, the partnership was agreed.
Natalie Pawaleck, Partnerships Manager, said, “We found a perfect fit with a company and industry we previously had never worked with. We knew that the fit was just too good not to share with the company. So I emailed the CEO, who put me in touch with the marketing team.
In the second meeting, we adapted the offering based on some comments they had made around employee engagement in the first meeting and focused on the ideas that had received positive feedback. But the real key was patient persistence. It took six months from the first email to actually get the yes.”
Here, the Blue Cross team show us the power of patient persistence. Often when approaching a company, there will be weeks – if not months – when they do not respond. It can be easy to get down hearted and interpret this lack of response as a “no”. But this partnership shows us there is hope. Even during busy times, a strong shared purpose is undeniable. So keep following up that prospect.
The power of a phone call
Recently, Deafblind UK were asked by a high street retailer to verify some Deafblind manual and braille that was to be included on a product. Which of course they were happy to do, but they also sensed there was a greater opportunity.
Zoe Beattie, Community and Business Partner, said, “We saw this as an amazing opportunity, to speak to the organisation and find out more about how this product had come about and what was the reason behind the launch. So rather than just send an email, I gave them a call.
“This simple approach has led to them asking for our support with a much bigger campaign and the potential to work together in the coming months. This campaign is also being championed by an ‘A list’ celebrity.
“Great things can come out of a simple conversation!”
This example from Deafblind UK shows the power of a phone call. By speaking to the company on the phone, Zoe was able to use her excellent relationship skills and passion about the cause to uncover a bigger opportunity. If you sense an opportunity like Zoe did, we recommend you call first and email later.
If you’re a corporate fundraiser, working from home, it can be easy to get discouraged if you don’t feel you’re making progress with your prospects. That’s why we chose to share these five wins, to demonstrate to that corporate partnerships success is possible right now. We hope these lessons fire you up to think more strategically about your current partners and to re-engage your prospects with renewed confidence and excitement.