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Toss Out Your Corporate Partnership Rate Card

What is your corporate sponsorship goal? Is it to secure a new corporate partnership (and thus additional dollars for your organization), or is your goal to cram the prospective partner into a box of your own making?

If your goal is to secure new or increased revenue for your non-profit from a corporate partner, consider why you have been boxing yourself in (and thus your prospective partner) by using an old fashioned rate card.

What if you tossed out your rate card, how differently might your cultivation, ideation and solicitation cycle be? What if you approached corporate partnerships more authentically, with a tailored approach?

Let’s first eradicate the term “corporate sponsor,” however. Instead, think of them as a “corporate partner.” A genuine, authentic (and thus a longer-lasting) corporate relationship should be a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. The corporate partner has an asset you would like to have (probably: money), and you as the non-profit has an asset the corporate partner would to have (perhaps this is access, market reach, CSR* opportunities, Board representation, etc).

*CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility

Consider the following scenario, which is based upon multiple real life experiences I’ve encountered over time:

Joel, a member of the Board and its development committee called me, saying, “Hey Michael, I know Gabriella over at Acme Company, and I think they could be a good corporate partner. Could I pass along a PDF of some sponsor opportunities and the related prices and benefits?”

“Wow, thanks for connecting the dots here, Joel!” I respond with gladness. “We’ve been interested in exploring a relationship with Acme Company for years now. I’d love an introduction!”

[And here's the redirect in the conversation]

“You know, Joel, rather than sending along that PDF of our opportunities, prices and benefits, what if you set up a time for you and I to meet Gabriella for a zoom call in the next two weeks? I’d love to hear more about Acme Company’s objectives, what they’re working on, and just get to know Gabriella a bit” I respond to Joel.

Joel then introduces us via email, I schedule the zoom call, and we all three connect on zoom a few weeks later for a preliminary get to know you session.

Hold your horses though, that preliminary conversation is not the pitch session. It’s much too early in the process (although always have something in your back pocket in the event the prospective partner comes with a blank check in-hand, no doubt).

Instead, that preliminary conversation is the opportunity to get to know Acme Company and Gabriella better. Consider asking a number of questions that show:

  1. You did your homework and you know what Acme Company does. And make sure you actually did your homework!

  2. You are curious about them, you are interested in what they do. Empathy goes a long way, and people love to talk about what they do.

  3. You are listening to their needs, which illustrates you want to help them do their job better and more easily.

Likely, Gabriella oversees marketing or CSR strategies, or perhaps HR or talent management, or maybe community engagement or business development. She is busy, she is taking a million meetings just like yours. Don’t make life more complicated for Gabriella. Instead, ask her open questions that give you the answers to the test -- that is to say, use your preliminary conversation with Gabriella to learn things like:

  • What are the objectives Acme Company is trying to accomplish? (Grow market share? Reach new clients? Provide unique opportunities for existing clients? Provide unique opportunities for their employees? Increase brand awareness in the market? etc.)

  • What is their timeline for making decisions? What budgeting or financial cycle do they use? (And how can you be flexible to align with available dollars in their budget cycle?)

  • Who makes decisions like this? Is it Gabriella, or her boss? Does it go all the way to the top of the house? Is this a committee decision?

  • We’re all human after all, and unless the decision is strictly based upon metrics without any personal influence, get to know Gabriella and what she’s interested in. What does she gravitate toward? Is she a numbers person? Is she looking for a touching story or anecdote? Is she passionate about some area of your organization more than another area of what you do?

And then, in the days or week after your preliminary meeting, take time to review the copious notes you took during and after your call with Gabriella. Remind yourself what Acme Company may be looking for (think back to those “answers to the test” they provided to you) in a partnership, and then build 2-4 partnership ideas that mutually meet their needs, and the needs of your non-profit. And remember to leave some room for negotiation - - both the price (known as the investment level) and the benefits (also known as the assets).

We’re only scraping the surface in this blog post, but if you’d like to re-think how your corporate partnership works (or maybe why it isn’t working so well at the moment), let’s have a conversation.

Michael Pettry


Cape Fletcher Associates

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