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Business partnerships for nonprofits: Ideas and examples

August 10, 2021
This group of nonprofit employees is making a sponsorship deal with a business.

There are plenty of creative ways your nonprofit organization can locate new donors and tap into the power of individual gifts, but one of the most effective ways is through local business partnerships. 

Local businesses act as a funnel for new donors, and your organization has a lot to offer these businesses in return. Your partnership can provide a boost to their brand image, team-building opportunities, and a concrete way to implement their corporate social responsibility policy. 

Let’s dive into how to find the best local business partnership for your nonprofit’s needs. 

3 foundational pillars of an effective local business partnership

It’s important to select a business to partner with that aligns with your organization's purpose, needs, and goals. To help you acquire new donors, a strong partnership with a local business must have these three essential characteristics:

1. A shared audience. 

You’ll see the most success from partnerships where the business and your organization share an audience. When you’re ready to pursue a partnership, start by making a list of local businesses whose audiences overlap with yours. 

For example, if your nonprofit is an animal shelter, a pet supply store would make an ideal partner. If you serve low-income families, on the other hand, a grocery store may be a strong choice. If you work for a widely popular cause such as sustainability, you may find success with a spectrum of businesses that have a more general audience. 

2. A purpose that resonates with the business’s audience.

The real key to a partnership that generates gifts for your organization is to connect your partnership’s message to a purpose their audience cares about. Even if a business’s audience isn’t in perfect alignment with your typical audience, you can often frame the project in terms that resonate with them. 

For example, let’s say your nonprofit organization helps to connect entrepreneurs who are people of color with affordable small business loans, and you want to create a partnership with one of the municipalities that many of your entrepreneurs call home. You may want to create a campaign specifically for this partner, focused on the entrepreneurs who live in their municipality. 

3. Mutual benefit. 

Once you’ve selected a business you want to partner with, clearly point out how a partnership with your nonprofit organization will benefit them. Create messaging that lays out each of the benefits and explains how they will make a difference to the company’s wellbeing.  

Examples of local business partnerships for nonprofits

Local business partnerships can look different depending on your audience and the business’s resources. Consider these partnership ideas:

  • Local media: Partnering with a local media outlet like a community magazine, newspaper, or radio station can provide you with free or reduced-cost advertising. This type of partnership is especially effective for promoting a specific campaign. Media coverage will help improve awareness and drive interested traffic to your organization’s campaign page.
  • Grocery store: This type of partnership has traditionally taken the form of a checkout-giving campaign, but you can also modify this strategy by taking it virtual. Ask the grocery store to promote your nonprofit via their social media channels. If your organization could use donated grocery items, ask the store to match customer gifts with an equal value of donated products. 
  • Volunteer day: Come up with an idea for a volunteer opportunity that a business’s employees could participate in, either in person or remotely. The reward for your work will be a slew of social media posts on the company’s social pages. If you engage employees in a compelling way with your partnership, you may also encourage them to become donors. 
  • Matching gift fundraiser: Find local companies whose employees are likely to resonate with your organization’s purpose, and suggest a fundraiser in which the company matches employee gifts. This type of partnership will increase both the size and number of donations to your organization because people are more likely to donate when they know their gift will be matched.

No matter what type of campaigns you create through your local business partnership, be sure to collect contact information from donors and volunteers. Follow up with a thank-you note and add them to your fundraising CRM so they don’t miss out on future updates and communications. 

Start building your network of corporate partners

While many small nonprofits overlook corporate partnerships, local businesses are often a perfect opportunity since they typically share a desire to improve the community. Use your creativity to brainstorm ideas for local business partnerships that rest on the three foundational pillars we’ve shared here, and you’ll build an effective source of individual gifts.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Corporate social responsibility
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  • Fundraising ideas