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Am I too small for a corporate partnership?

Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann,
11 November 2019

The size of your organisation is less important than you might think, write The Xfactor Collective specialist members Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann.

Do you have partnership envy? Like the scene in “When Harry Met Sally” do you look at the  partnerships between the big brand charities and large corporates and want what they’re having?

Then you’ll be pleased to know that partnerships are not all about brand or cause marketing.

Yes, there will always be some corporates that go for the big brand names, because they want the quick “sugar hit” of recognition with their consumers: but there are plenty of things that corporates seek in a community partner beyond a well-known logo on their product.

The size of your organisation is less important than the unique things you can bring to the partnership. Understanding your assets and what you have to offer will help you identify the synergies with the right partner. 

Let’s look at some of the things apart from a big brand that can make you attractive to a corporate partner.

1. YOUR AUDIENCE

 Who is in your donor database and which audiences do you reach through your programs, networks or communications? A niche or hard to reach audience can be extremely valuable to a corporate who wants to engage with your community. 

One Girl was a small charity with only four staff, but a loyal supporter base of young, affluent, educated people. More importantly, they had researched their audience and could describe in detail their demographics, buying behaviours and profile. This made them very attractive to an FMCG company who wanted to build a cohort of younger consumers. The result was One Girl’s first corporate partnership.

2. OPPORTUNITIES FOR MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT 

St Kilda Mums is a small charity, started by one person working out of their garage to recycle pre-loved prams and cots for babies. 

Key to success was an army of volunteers to help with reconditioning, cleaning and packaging donated items for distribution to disadvantaged families. 

This provided the opportunity for teams of corporate volunteers to experience first-hand the work of St Kilda Mums and connect emotionally to the purpose and impact of their contribution. 

St Kilda Mums have been able to build on the connections made through volunteering to secure financial support from a range of large corporates.

3. ENGAGING AND COMPELLING CONTENT FOR MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Do you have emotional stories to tell? If you can gather testimonials, stories, pictures and videos to bring to life your cause and your impact, then you’ll be very attractive to corporates looking for rich content to share with their audience and inspire engagement. 

Pet Rescue is a coalition of many, tiny volunteer organisations aiming to find new homes for rescued animals. It has created a great digital platform to engage with the public, using fabulous pictures of animals and inspiring stories. 

If you’re having a bad day, just scroll through their pictures of adorable cats and dogs to put the smile back on your face. No wonder they have secured major partners like Woolworths and PetStock: the clarity of their mission and their high-quality content are a winning combination. 

If you want a long-lasting partnership that’s transformational for your small charity and your mission, you need to look more broadly about the unique things that you can bring to a partnership. Smaller organisations, who are often nimbler than their large-scale peers, can really stand out. 

It’s all about understanding your assets and what makes you distinct. It might be a valuable audience, emotional content or great volunteering opportunities. By taking a systematic approach to analysing, describing and building your assets you’ll be able to find the best fit corporate partners for your organisation.

So, shake off that partnership envy, be confident about what you have to offer and make sure you get to share in the benefits that a partnership can bring to your organisation.

TIPS TO GET STARTED
  1. Create a catalogue of your assets and everything you have to offer.
  2. Identify your strengths and anything special or unique and describe it in detail (metrics, size, frequency, demographics etc).
  3. Look for synergies: identify the corporates that will find your particular assets valuable.
EXTRA HELP FROM - THE X-CHANGE VIDEO LIBRARY
  1. What’s the difference between sponsorships and partnerships?
  2. How to understand your partnership assets
  3. What exactly are businesses looking for from a charity partner?

About the authors: Linda Garnett and Sharon Dann are experienced corporate partnership specialists and foundation members of The Xfactor Collective social impact community.

The Xfactor Collective is an Australian-first community where changemakers go for expert support and advice, including pre-vetted specialists across 100-plus areas of specialisation, specialist triage support services and a free video library.

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