Corporate Nonprofit Partnerships That Work

By Renée Smyth, Chief Marketing Officer Camden National Bank, February 2017


Companies and nonprofits must work together to help solve social issues. This partnership, when executed well, creates a unique collaborative opportunity for both organizations. An alliance between a nonprofit organization and a corporation may be difficult to manage at first, but when overall expectations are discussed and met, the benefits far outweigh any potential challenges.

The key to building a strong relationship is to create a candid, open partnership. Both organizations must discuss their needs and goals as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

At Camden National Bank, we look to partner with nonprofit organizations that support the communities we serve. When reviewing a grant application, we take the time to get to know the organization, its mission, history, and areas served. We analyze the nonprofit’s infrastructure and recent financial report to ensure it is a sustainable organization. We review the list of board of directors to confirm that the organization has many areas of expertise represented, including marketing, legal, accounting and even health services professionals, when appropriate. Additionally, we evaluate the board’s financial and volunteer participation levels. Strong board participation in both areas indicates a healthy organization. In other words, it’s imperative that the nonprofit organization present itself as a viable business with a strategic plan.

A nonprofit must seek corporate partners that have a vital interest in their cause. It’s important to get to know the corporation’s decision makers and listen to their needs. Before approaching an organization for a partnership, consider what it is you have to offer. Perhaps, you’re addressing a vital community need, or you have a strong email list, or visibility in the community and among its centers of influence (COIs). Whatever it is, be sure to have this information well documented for your initial meeting.

In order to avoid unproductive, short-term relationships, the nonprofit must consistently communicate their results, marketing materials and media coverage. And the corporate partner must help to amplify any message. If a corporation sponsors your annual event or fundraising activity, you should schedule regular check-ins to ensure the corporation is being well represented and that the partnership is being fully maximized. You might even ask the corporation how your nonprofit can get in front of their employees to build awareness around your mission or to seek employees as volunteers. Don’t be afraid to ask the corporation for out-of-the box marketing ideas

After the event takes place, be sure to share any marketing materials where your partner was recognized, send a photo of the day, as well as a short recap of who attended, highlights of the event and any anecdote that demonstrates your appreciation of their sponsorship. Follow up with the corporation to find out what their results were from the partnership. Ask the corporation if they received better brand recognition or perhaps, new customers due to the relationship.

A nonprofit adds significant value to corporate partners, and will ultimately complement the corporation’s long-term strategy. If both organizations are successful, then the corporation will have more dollars for funding, and the nonprofit will be better positioned for larger sponsorships dedicated to their cause.

When these partnerships work, they can have great payoffs for both partners—as well as for the public. While a corporation is boosting its image and a nonprofit is securing crucial funds, both parties are also focusing attention on social problems that might otherwise be neglected. That’s a true partnership.

- Renee Smyth is the Chief Marketing Officer and President of The Bank of Maine Foundation for Camden National Bank.



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This article is for informational purposes only and is general in nature. It’s provided for educational purposes only. The information contained herein may not be applicable to every situation or jurisdiction, and we encourage you to consult with your professional advisor prior to acting on information contained herein for advice applicable to your specific situation. Camden National Bank makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.