Profiles in Partnership
A series on best practices and sound advice for developing and maintaining successful cause marketing and cross-sector partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations
BB: How do you find the people or companies you think would best fit the BAYCAT model?
VW: Starting really with the basics with whom you know and asking about what organizations need; networking 101 also means good quality work naturally creates referrals. We generally look for for-profit organizations that have evolved in a certain way with people who already have a heart and an intention to help nonprofit organizations. These are businesses that range from law firms to banks to tech companies to other social enterprises. Even foundations are naturally in the “business” of supporting nonprofits and need event capture and media services.
BB: When they look at you and as a nonprofit, do you see any misconceptions or any challenges that you need to deal with in working with the for-profit community?
VW: I think some of these misconceptions are about the level of professionalism, quality and service that a nonprofit can provide, and that a sustainable nonprofit is a business as well. Instead of feeling that, oh, this is a nice charity, we want clients to know that we are also a business.
Sometimes because we are a nonprofit, some may think we can have our interns be able to work for free or we can do everything pro bono. Why is it that when one goes to a commercial business for services one expects to pay them, but for a nonprofit, one thinks the quality of services won’t be as good so it should be cheaper or free? I think that misconception comes from both places. It’s not just the corporation’s responsibility, but it’s also the nonprofit’s responsibility to present themselves as a business, present the challenges in a strategic way.
BB: Do you do a lot of research before you go in that door to find a new partner?
VW: Absolutely. You have to do your homework. You have to understand what the focus areas are that the corporation is interested in. If they have some type of foundation, they will outline that on their website or obviously, if you could get in front of them in person, that’s better. These days I feel people are so busy, the program managers and community affairs people, that you better know the answer to their questions that appear on their websites before you even ask or knock on their door.
BB: Do you ask your board or others to help you?
VW: Yes, everyone can be a spokesperson for our organization from our board, donors and even our parents and students. If you have strong board leaders, if you have really strong donors, and if you have students and parents who believe in your program, then you already have a tie-in. That personal relationship will make a giant difference, especially if they can give your elevator pitch to the prospective organization, and then you come in and talk about the details.
You don’t have to talk to just one department like community affairs, if you know somebody in marketing, or if you know somebody who’s in any department – anybody you know is better than a cold call.
BB: What about just starting on a smaller scale to work your way into an organization?
VW: Yes, just start with the people that you know. We’ve had a lot of luck with people saying I love what you’re doing at BAYCAT so much, and I don’t have a lot to give, but I could get 10 people together and we’re going to go do a bowling night and whatever we raise that night, we’re going to give you. That simple little gesture creates not only the money at the end of the night but it creates 10 new people who know about you and with whom, you would have had to pound the door yourself to meet.
Up Next: Part 4: Working with Volunteers
For more information on developing highly successful partnerships please visit: www.bruceburtch.com