Including 6 learnings on building corporate partnerships.
This is a guest blog by Richard Turner, Director of Fundraising, SolarAid
Have you ever built a house of cards? Spending what feels like ages carefully constructing the highest triangle possible only of course for it all to come crashing down! That’s how I used to view corporate fundraising. You spend time investing in relationships which seem to then tumble down so you have to start all over again.
All that has changed, because now I understand the basis on how to build corporate partnerships that last. You focus on the shared purpose between your charity and the potential corporate partner. This makes the partnership as much about them as it is about you.
I’ve learnt this critical mindset working with the remarkable Remarkable Partnerships team. So much so for the last few years Remarkable Partnerships were SolarAid’s corporate partnerships team (a unique experiment that has worked out really well).
Now we have a foundation that we can build on year on year. It’s taken us several years to get to this point. So what have we learned for anyone seeking to build a corporate partnerships programme?
Learnings from building a Corporate Partnerships programme
1. Give it time. For a proper embedded approach to corporate partnerships you need at least a couple of years. There is an internal culture you need to take root so colleagues can all get involved in engaging corporate partners by building your pipeline and refining your pitch. Companies often need time to consider a partnership but then when they move it can be fast.
2. Avoid temptation. Those charity of the year opportunities will come and our learning has been to disregard them as they burn up time and unless you are a household name it often leads to nothing. We’ve limited ours to one a year. One where there is a good fit, we have an initial introduction, and we see potential for a long-term partnership.
3. Nudge that pipeline. It takes patient persistence to follow up prospects. You want someone who can make those calls, fix those meetings and knows how to pitch your cause in a way that resonates with their corporate purpose. That process creates an energy itself, exciting the potential partner as you go.
4. Be ready. You also need to be ready to respond promptly, i.e. within hours, to inbound enquiries, and know which are worth pursuing. When a company takes the trouble to reach out, that’s when you have their attention. You need to seize it. Otherwise they will simply look to someone else.
5. Proactively nurture relationships. You need to be the driver to nurture relationships with any corporate partner as their business is likely to be focused elsewhere. Show them how the partnership brings value to their organisation and particularly how it will help engage their colleagues.
6. Seek value. With advice from the Remarkable Partnerships team, we developed a minimum partnership level of £25,000 in value a year. It’s helped us focus on the prospects that will strive to achieve that. It doesn’t have to be funds either. We’ve had a company donate an exhibition stand, help leverage match funding, develop bespoke packaging, and help attract new supporters. You explore and seek out the value they can bring together.
LIGHT IN A BOX With packaging advice from Bird Sunglasses, who also did the design probono, SolarAid now have a box to send solar lights in which can be bought from their online shop.
Fundraising to build on
And now we have a diverse range of corporate partners from a range of relevant industries who love our business focused approach, lighting, and of course, renewable energy. We have a solid portfolio to build on year on year instead of having to recreate it from scratch.
Our next step
The time has now come for us to take this to the next level. This year we are looking for someone to take the reins and lead our corporate partnerships. It is a fantastic opportunity to build on the momentum and relationships established with guidance from Remarkable Partnerships. And I know it will be key to SolarAid delivering on its mission to end the darkness and bring solar light to every home, clinic and school across sub-saharan Africa by 2030.