Your nonprofit doesn’t have to operate alone. Serving alongside a for-profit business in what is known as a cross-sector partnership comes with several benefits and should be built into your organization’s strategic plan.
To ensure a successful partnership, reach out to businesses that align with your mission and ask detailed questions about who their customers are, what they expect to get out of a partnership, and how they would be willing to contribute to your cause. An example of a mutually beneficial partnership would be an animal shelter teaming up with a doggie daycare business to host an adopt-a-pet fundraiser because the organizations share similar skills and target audiences.
In this guide, we’ll explore the benefits of cross-sector partnerships in more detail so that you can make the most of this collaborative opportunity. From raising awareness to driving meaningful support for your cause, partnering with a for-profit business can help your nonprofit:
1. Reach a wider audience.
By teaming up with a for-profit business, your nonprofit can reach new markets of potential volunteers and donors. Most businesses participating in a partnership will leverage their brand recognition and resources to raise awareness for a nonprofit’s cause. For example, if you partnered with a dog groomer to host an event at their store, they could use their dog grooming software to share event details with customers in their database.
Alternatively, a business might offer to mention your nonprofit in their marketing materials, which can include the following channels:
- Website: If your partner has a prominent corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, they likely have a web page dedicated to the charitable causes they support. Ask them to add your organization to this list, including information about your cause and a link to your nonprofit’s website.
- Direct mail: Create a QR code that links to your nonprofit’s donation or event registration page and have your partner add it to their flyers, letters, or other print materials.
- Social media: Consider “taking over” your partner’s social media accounts for a day to give their followers a behind-the-scenes look at your nonprofit. If the partner isn’t comfortable with that idea, see if they’d be willing to announce your partnership on social media instead.
- Email: Have your partner mention the partnership in their upcoming email newsletter or mass appeal. Suggest an eye-catching subject line like “We need your help to support a local nonprofit” to ensure the message is delivered to their customers’ inboxes rather than their spam folders.
By engaging in a multichannel marketing strategy alongside your business partner, you increase the chances of reaching potential supporters on their preferred platforms and driving support for your cause. For the best results, Gingr recommends using marketing software to track and report on engagement metrics. That way, you can determine whether the partnership is producing a positive return on investment and optimize your strategy accordingly.
2. Receive fundraising support.
In the process of reaching a wider audience, partnering with a corporation has been proven to help nonprofits raise critical funding for their programs and initiatives. According to fundraising statistics from 360MatchPro, corporations gave over $20 billion to nonprofit organizations last year alone.
If you don’t have the resources to effectively host a fundraiser on your own, your nonprofit might benefit from partnering with a local business to co-host a campaign. Once you’ve identified a partner, set clear expectations about how they can support your cause. For instance, a for-profit business may be able to provide your nonprofit with:
- Monetary donations: Ask if your partner would be willing to donate a lump sum directly to your fundraiser or match your supporters’ contributions.
- In-kind contributions: If a business can’t financially donate to your fundraiser, they may be able to offer supplies or a space to host an event.
- Volunteer support: Encourage the company’s staff to volunteer their time at your fundraising event. Roles may include checking in event attendees or running an informational booth.
With this additional support, you can host a memorable fundraiser on a tight budget and provide new exposure for your cause. However, keep in mind that both parties should benefit from a partnership. Explain what the business can expect to receive in return for their support, such as tax deductions or positive press. You might also agree to distribute a business’s branded merchandise during the fundraiser or add their name and logo to your promotional materials.
3. Tackle complex issues.
Cross-sector partnerships also provide nonprofits with a greater sphere of influence, allowing them to make a real impact on their communities. Let’s say your animal rights organization is advocating for a law that bans all forms of animal cruelty. A business with power and influence can empower your efforts and help you enact lasting change.
Here are some examples of how you can collaborate with a cross-sector partner to advance your mission:
- Include click-to-call buttons on your website and your partner’s website that send users directly to a representative’s phone number.
- Co-host an email writing campaign where participants use pre-scripted email templates to express their thoughts and feelings to decision-makers.
- Launch a social media advocacy campaign together with a hashtag that connects to your cause.
- Start a petition and collect signatures from your respective support bases.
- Write letters to lawmakers and other key stakeholders in your shared community.
When multiple organizations across different sectors work together to solve a complex problem, they can spark a widespread movement and effect deep, systemic change.
Having a for-profit organization by your side opens doors to increased collaboration, new funding opportunities, and sustainable growth. Begin the process of building cross-sector partnerships early on so that you can set your nonprofit up for long-term success.