When I co-founded the Northern Colorado Nonprofit Resource Center it was partly based on the fact that I’d been approached by lots of businesses to share their information with my nonprofit contacts. This became an impossible task because of how many businesses and nonprofits wanted to know about each other. So I created the Northern Colorado Resource Fair to connect Pro-Nonprofit Businesses with Nonprofit Organizations.

It was at this time that I began to formulate my philosophy on Co-Branding. Co-Branding is the development of long term relationships between for profit and nonprofit organizations that identify the various ways they work together to meet each others needs. Over the last 10 years, I’ve refined this experience and learned there are many ways to fully realize a successful relationship with nonprofit organizations.

The first thing for both to know is what each receives from the other including experience, resources, knowledge and value.


For corporations, they seek brand recognition, new customers, increased sales and public recognition of their social responsibility, increased revenue, lower expenses, community awareness, more customers, more community connections, awareness and tax breaks.
According to Sean Harrigan, writing for the Nonprofit Hub,
■ ”91% of global consumers are likely to switch brand to one associated with a good cause
■ 61% of consumers are willing to try a new brand…because of its association with a particular cause
■ 44% of U.S. consumers said they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services.”


For nonprofit organizations, they want funding for their services and events, increased awareness of their mission, brand solidification, more volunteers and donors. Nonprofits work to achieve successful programs, money, volunteers, profitable events, grants, board of directors and in-kind donations.

Bringing it Together

These two needs create the perfect long term commitment for the right pairing of a nonprofit and company.

The hard part, like any relationship, is finding the right partner and figuring out how to make the relationship work for everyone. Let’s dive into the complexity of developing and maintaining such a relationship.

Find a company that matches your Mission
Although this may sound obvious, it is really important to begin with the mission in mind. Some companies have never developed a corporate philanthropic mission statement. Other companies know exactly what their mission is and how it combines with their brand. When first approaching a company, it is important to do your research by going to their website and seeing what they say about their philanthropic work. You can also find out who they sponsor to determine if you are a kind of organization the company supports. When you meet with them for the first time, don’t share anything about your organization, but ask about their company and learn what is important to them. In subsequent meetings you can share ways your missions align and begin discussions of what working together would entail.

2. Know what you want and need from a corporation
It is best to know ahead of time what your ask is based on what the needs of the corporation are. If you need board members, volunteers, in-kind donations, or cash then clearly outline these items a one page document. This is not about handing a company an event sponsorship packet. This is about working to create a long term relationship that can grow into years of benefits.

3. Prove your worth
Companies want to partner with sustainable nonprofit organizations. They are looking for organizations that have proven results. Like grant writing, this means sharing data about your success in delivery your services.

In addition to knowing that you are a sustainable nonprofit, companies are also looking for a Return on Investment (ROI). They want to know how it’s going to help them. How many people will they reach? How many marketing impressions will they get? How can their employees participate? How can they measure sales from the relationship? How will this help them achieve their goals?

4. Venture Philanthropy
Many companies want to have an active role in the nonprofit organization programs and fundraisers. They like visiting the nonprofit, participating in work groups, providing insight on how the nonprofit can improve efficiencies and even share in ideas about program development or fundraising opportunities. Coming up with ideas and ways they can be part of the organization enhances their experience and can greatly benefit the nonprofit.

Ongoing Relationship

Once you have identified your partner, make sure you have a sound relationship that can be long term and grow together.

1. Put it in writing
Do create a contract. Include the key objectives to achieve your partnership, how you will measure success, evaluation methods, duration of agreement, details of what each receives from the partnership and other information important to the relationship.

2. Set up an evaluation plan including communication
It is important that metrics are recorded and shared. This ongoing evaluation plan can include meetings and regular communication to ensure both organizations feel comfortable with the relationship.

3. Appreciate your partnership
Take steps to let the company know how much you appreciate your relationship. Invite them to a donor appreciation event or write an online review about the company.

Co-Branding with a corporation can provide a multi year partnership that will benefit your nonprofit, and the company, for maximum success. Corporations are used to clear proposals that show the return on investment. By learning what the corporation wants from the relationship you can develop a successful partnership.

NOTE: I have a separate blog on how the IRS views corporate sponsorships. Some activity is taxable as Unrelated Business Income. To learn more about this, check out my blog in the Compliance Corner on my website.


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