How Your Nonprofit Can Benefit from Co-Branding and Corporate Sponsorships

Have you considered co-branding with a company in support of your nonprofit’s mission? Co-branding can be a highly effective strategy for nonprofits to raise funds, engage volunteers, and build wider support for their cause. There’s more to co-branding than you might think, and in this article, we walk through everything you need to know to get started with co-branding.

First, what is co-branding?

Competent Assistance for Nonprofit’s Founder and Principal Linda Akey has a simple definition of 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 other’s needs.”

The key to a successful co-branding partnership is that both the nonprofit and the company involved benefit from the relationship. A recent example is Target and UNICEF’s co-branded campaign, Kid Power. Target introduced a new product, a fitness band to encourage kids to be active. Kids with the band could use an app to track their activity and earn points, which unlocked funding to support children in underserved communities around the world. UNICEF got exposure and funding, and Target got to align a product that benefits kids with a cause that benefits kids. It was a win-win. Within the first six months of the partnership, Target sold over 135,000 Kid Power bands.

So why exactly do corporations—even small businesses—want to partner with nonprofits?

There are many ways to build a successful relationship between a nonprofit and a company. Both have experience, resources, knowledge, and value to share with one another. Nonprofits are in a unique position to show businesses the link between philanthropic work, and their for-profit purpose.

Corporations often seek brand recognition, new customers, increased sales, public recognition of their social responsibility, increased revenue, lower expenses, community awareness, more community connections, and tax breaks. Additionally, corporations are navigating a climate where consumers expect more from them than ever.

  • 78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well. – 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study
  • 64% of consumers choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. – Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study

Volunteers planting a garden.

When companies partner with nonprofits, many desire active roles in nonprofits’ programs and fundraisers. They appreciate visiting the nonprofit, participating in workgroups, providing insight on how the nonprofit can improve, and share ideas about program development or fundraising opportunities.

So how can your nonprofit benefit from a co-branding partnership?

Nonprofits seek funding for their services and events, increased awareness of their mission, brand solidification, volunteers, in-kind donations, and long-term donors.

The best co-branding partnerships creatively provide more than one of these benefits to the nonprofit.

How to Get Started

Like any relationship, the hardest and most important step is finding the right partner and building trust. This requires time, honest and straightforward communication, and commitment on both parts.

Step 1: Find a company that matches your mission. 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 research other nonprofits they sponsor to determine if your nonprofit is the kind of organization the company supports.

Step 2: Know what you want and need from a corporation. Clearly outline what you need—board members, volunteers, in-kind donations, funding, and whatever else—in a one-page document.

Step 3: Prove your worth. Companies want to partner with sustainable nonprofits with proven results. Like foundations and grantmakers, corporations appreciate when you share evaluation data about the success of your services. In addition, companies look for a Return on Investment (ROI). They want details on how the partnership will help them.

  • How many people will they reach?
  • How many marketing impressions will they get?
  • Can their employees participate?
  • How can they measure sales from the relationship?
  • How will this help them achieve their goals?

You’ve found the perfect match. Now what?

Once you have identified your partner, your next step is to build the foundation of a sound relationship that can grow in the long term. There are a few important steps to ensuring a strong partnership:  

Man signing contact.

Step 1: Put it in writing. Create a contract that includes the partnership’s key objectives, success measures, duration, and what each party receives, and other important information. 

Step 2: Set up an evaluation plan, including communication. Find ways to record and share metrics. This ongoing evaluation plan may include meetings and regular communication to ensure both organizations feel comfortable with the relationship.  

Step 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. 

Now is the Time to Cultivate Corporate Partnerships

Fall is when many companies set their philanthropic goals and budgets for the coming year. It is a great time to reach out to companies who are aligned with your mission to begin to explore a relationship. 

If you already have a great corporate partner, there are many ways you can leverage the partnership to help you with your year-end fundraising efforts. 

  1. Secure a match. Many companies are open to pledging a match to motivate your donors to give. There are many ways to structure a match. The company may want to give dollar for dollar up to a certain amount or set an amount that your nonprofit has to raise to get any dollars. Knowing their dollars will go twice as far is certainly motivating to donors, as research shows. 
  2. Ask the company to sponsor a fall fundraising event. Event sponsorships are a great way to begin a relationship with a company because they can attend the event and see the tangible impact of the partnership. Before soliciting sponsorships, make sure you know how to comply with laws regarding sponsorship benefits.

Co-Branding with a corporation can provide a multi-year partnership that will benefit your nonprofit, and the company, for maximum success. By learning what the corporation wants from the relationship, and being clear on what you want,  you can develop a successful partnership. Linda Akey shares even more important information about co-branding on the Butterflyly Podcast. Subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcasts to get the episode when it’s released later this month.

If you are curious about how corporate partnerships can help your new nonprofit, schedule a free consultation with Linda Akey.