10 ways to prepare for partnering
Thinking about entering the corporate partnership space or improving your results in this area? Pamela Sutton-Legaud suggests some things you should have in place before going to market.
The following are ten tips you may like to consider, which will save you and your potential sponsor time, money and energy. It’s better to proactively determine these points rather than to be unprepared when a potential partnership opportunity arises.
1. Allocate responsibility for partnerships. Allocate a team or team member who has, as part of their job description and key performance indicators, the responsibility to deal with and negotiate corporate partnerships. This is particularly important in organisations that have a range of entry points, to ensure all potential partners are consistently appraised and receive the appropriate level of benefits to reflect the level of partnership.
2. Define organisational values for partnerships. Assist your staff by working with your board or executive team to create a corporate sponsorship policy which details what sort of industries conflict with or enhance your core values. Using an obvious example, if your organisation aims to assist people struggling with addiction, be explicit whether you will accept funds from tobacco companies, alcohol companies or gaming companies.
3. Create a selection criteria framework for sponsor partnerships. In support of your policy, it helps to create a sponsorship framework which outlines how you will select or accept new partners, how to acknowledge donors/sponsors and what you can give back in terms of value for their sponsorship dollars. Consider if you receive $5,000 or $500,000 gift – what could you offer to a sponsor at various levels of support? While each sponsor has different needs and requirements, you can develop some basic guidelines to get the conversation started. Defining this early – and the benefits that do/don’t come with each – can save a lot of headaches down the line.
4. Prepare a partnership benefits overview. Prepare a short guideline document to provide to any sponsor who should approach you which provides an overview of how you work, what you can offer, and why you’d be a great partner, as well as any selection criteria that you would apply to any sponsorship application. It allows you to respond to any requests quickly and professionally. It also allows a potential sponsor to self determine how good a fit they are with you, your stakeholders or audience.
5. Evaluate prospective partners’ organisational fit. Consider which types of organization are ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ partners for your cause. At Zoos Victoria, we are a natural fit with organisations that wish to engage with a large family audience, as almost two million people visit our zoos annually. So, fast moving consumer goods organisations or those focused on a consumer audience are a good ‘natural’ fit. As such, when Zoos Victoria entered into a partnership with ANZ bank, this was a very natural fit for both parties as our audiences and values were well matched.
6. Look for a values match. It’s important to be explicit about your own organisation’s values and review how they align with a prospective partner. Zoos Victoria takes a G-rated approach to our family audience so we want to collaborate with organisations with similar values. We are also a nonprofit conservation organisation, so we want to work with organisations that are likeminded and consider the impact of their actions and those of their customers on the environment. We’re here to protect and defend endangered species and we want to work with those organizations that actively support this goal.
7. Consider the value/effort of possible partnership. Nonprofits are time poor and relationships are time intensive, so it makes sense to evaluate the effort to reward ratio of a prospective partnership. Zoos Victoria uses a simple but powerful decision making framework which offers a simple way to assess a potential partnership activity. We look for partnerships and activities that sit in that top left hand corner – the ‘sweet-spot’ of low-medium effort for high value. This works in everyone’s favour.
8. Aim for multi-year partnerships. Wherever possible, look for multi-year partnerships to make the most of the work that goes into a partnership agreement on both sides. Negotiating multi-year partnerships allows time for the relationship to form and grow, while assuring partnership goals are met along the way. Good results come from time and reasonable levels of effort.
9. Record each partner’s goals. Create clear goals and don’t be afraid to clarify all the key outcomes of the partnership in a written sponsorship agreement. It is much easier to clarify your partnership benefits and commitments at the beginning of the relationship, than half way through.
10. Implement a regular review process. With clearly written up goals in place, you should regularly review the partnership’s progress against expectations to evaluate whether it’s meeting each partner’s expectations and take steps to improve on the relationship where possible. With this approach you can create enjoyable, mutually-beneficial relationships that continue for many years through open communication.
Pamela Sutton-Legaud is the Executive Director of the Zoos Victoria Foundation and leads the strategic direction for institutional and individual giving for Werribee Open Range Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Melbourne Zoo which celebrates its 150th anniversary in October 2012.
1st Published in Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine 2012