How Your Nonprofit Can Convince a Big Brand to Partner for a Cause Marketing Campaign

How Your Nonprofit Can Convince a Big Brand to Partner for a Cause Marketing Campaign

I recently joined Schneider Associates as Consumer Media Director after returning to Boston from New York City, where I oversaw media relations, cause marketing, tourism marketing, events and partnerships for Macy’s, the national department store.  Because I’m especially passionate about cause marketing, I wanted to share my perspective on things to consider if your nonprofit is coveting a corporate partner.

#1 Ensure Your Missions Align

It’s critical for your nonprofit’s objective to fit with the company’s beliefs. A nonprofit that is health and wellness focused, for example, could fit nicely with a sneaker maker. Conversely, an alcoholic beverage sponsorship probably would not be a good match for a children’s charity.

#2 Footprints Need to Match

If you’re approaching a national brand with locations or products around the country, be mindful of your nonprofit’s reach. If your group is strictly local, consider regionally- based companies first. The American Heart Association and Macy’s are a great match, for example, as the AHA runs chapter around the country, in many of the same markets and cities that Macy’s serves.

#3   Define What You Offer

Ask yourself: what do we have that is valuable and saleable to a corporate sponsor or partner?

Do we have a dedicated, supportive audience or membership that is their core customer?

Do we attract a strong, high-level turnout at our events?

Does our high-caliber reputation provide a “halo” effect to the sponsor that aligns with us?

#4 Make Your Sell-kit Compelling

Because a company expects to see a package of benefits commensurate with the magnitude of their partnership, consider what you have that the corporate partner wants—things like the ability to provide advertising exposure or an expansive social media audience.  Look at all the marketing assets you can bring to the table including email blasts, website inclusion, newsletters, social posting, signage and videos.

#5   Invest in Building Your Profile

To be attractive to a corporate sponsor, non-profits need to be top-of-mind.  Don’t overlook amping up your organization’s media relations, partnering with a celebrity, commenting on newsworthy issues, and putting resources behind paid advertising to raise your profile so companies know your brand. Corporate sponsors want partners that have large, high-profile followings so always be building your awareness across all media channels.

#6   Find Ways to Activate Experientially

The corporation wants to enhance its name and brand recognition through a relevant association with your organization and its supporters that ideally offers an engaging experience or call to action, whether online or IRL. You will be a rock star if you take the time to develop activation ideas – creative ways to mobilize your supporters – that not only are simple, organic and easy to understand but also drive traffic, attention, donations, and good will. A terrific example is Macy’s “Believe” campaign in support of the Make A Wish Foundation, which invites customers to write letters to Santa and bring them into a Macy’s store at holiday time, which triggers a $1.00 donation per letter to Make A Wish.

#7   Say thank you. First.

When you develop your campaign, be sure to build in ways to showcase your relationship with the sponsor in high impact, visible ways. Designing visibility into your annual plan is critical. Giving credit to your corporate partner goes a long way to building the relationship over time.

SA is an integrated marketing and PR agency with expertise in nonprofit marketing, cause marketing partnerships, fundraising, building an engaged online community, securing media opportunities creating website assets and social media content, with a focus on mobilizing support from donors, stakeholders, and the media. We’d love to help you tell your story. Read more about our work with nonprofits.

Robin Reibel
A highly experienced communications professional, Robin is passionate about the retail industry, having led public relations, cause marketing, tourism marketing, special events and partnerships for major department stores in Boston and New York. Most recently, as Macy’s senior vice president and media relations counsel, she built and managed a team of more than 200 in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.