Guest post by Tara Greco
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to conduct several workshops for nonprofit executives on how to build strong corporate partnerships. This is a topic that generates a lot of conversation within the NGO community–and because of the collaborative nature of the sector, people are eager to share “lessons learned.” In each of these sessions, there were really great conversations among professionals who are out there every day cultivating, nurturing and forging relationships. And, in the spirit of collaboration, I want to share some these insights with the Armchair Advocate readers.
1. Be prepared.
It all starts with solid research. It’s not enough to have a compelling pitch to explain your organization. You want to start a dialogue, not a broadcast–and you have to learn about your target before you begin engaging with them. Start with sources like the company’s annual report and corporate responsibility report, pull media clips from the last six months and reach out to people you know who know the business (they work there, they know people who work there, they are a current partner.) Use these sources to get a picture of business objectives, the company’s competitive landscape, management’s expectations for growth and future plans for development and innovation.
2. Know your Value.
Based on you research, you should have an idea of what issues matter to the company, where they see opportunities for their business and the challenges that keep executives up at night. Now, you need to look inward–conduct a SWOT analysis of your own organization and use that information to identify what assets you have that are valuable to the corporation. Lead with how your organization can help them–that will get their attention. It requires time to customize your pitch, but it is worth your while.
3. Mind your B’s and Q’s
The best pitch is compelling story that appeals to both the emotional and rational sensibilities. It should also be authentic to your organization (see Allison’s recent post on storytelling). The opportunity to tell your story could appear at any time, so it’s best to have your narrative in mind. To craft that storyline, you should be ready to address, in plain English, the following basic questions: What does my organization do? How do we do it? Why does it matter—to the community? to your company? Have several different versions in your toolbox–the one-minute “elevator” speech, the three-minute “cocktail party” answer and the thirty-minute presentation to the potential sponsor. Be brief and brilliant.
Tara Greco (@teegrec) is a seasoned CSR professional with experience on both sides of the equation, having worked in corporate community relations and nonprofit communications & marketing. She focuses on trends and innovations in community engagement, strategic philanthropy, volunteerism, cause marketing, and CR/nonprofit communications.