You Only Want Me for My Money! Tips for Nonprofits looking for Charity Sponsorship

04/03/2013 04:50 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2013

Corporations will give away $1.7 billion or more this year for the "halo effect" that comes from partnering with a nonprofit. Will your nonprofit benefit? Here's the catch: They don't want you if it's only about the cash. (How would you feel if you were only wanted for your money?)

Jackie Norris, Executive Director of the Points of Light Corporate Institute, is an expert in corporate volunteerism. "Look at companies as multi-faceted," advises Norris, who has had a multi-faceted career including serving as Assistant to President Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama.

In this 2-minute video Norris warns of important things that most nonprofits miss when they are looking for a corporate sponsor.

Jackie Norris, Points of Light Corporate Institute

Terry Crawford, former CEO of the Ronald McDonald Charities of Arkansas, did what Jackie Norris advocates when he needed new board members. He went to the top corporations in Little Rock and said, " You've spent a lot of money training your senior managers. Give them the opportunity to practice their new leadership skills." Of the seven corporate CEO's that he approached, three sent top tier managers to serve on the Ronald McDonald Charities Board.

Crawford gave the CEO's a good reason to help him. He realized that this was a business deal, not merely a donation. He provided something of value to the CEO's who, in turn, helped the nonprofit.

3 Tips for Non Profits looking for Charity Sponsorship

1. Know Your Value

Nonprofit leaders suffer from the mistaken idea that corporations are full of "people in a different league," people who know something they don't. Don't believe it!

"If you make believe that ten guys in pin-striped suits are back in kindergarten class playing with building blocks, you'll get a rough idea of what life in a corporation is like."
Lee Iacocca, former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation and President of Ford Motors.

Offer to feature a corporate sponsor in your press kits and marketing materials. Mention a corporate partner on your website, newsletter, in emails and at your meetings and events. Use your demographics. Could your supporters be potential buyers for a corporate sponsor?

Ask potential corporate partners what type of clients or customers they would like to reach. What do they sell? Your supporters might be the ideal customer base for them. Or not. If not, move on to another potential sponsor. Don't try to squeeze your demographic into their needs just to make the partnership work. (It never works.)

2. Don't be Desperate

When we are needy or worried that we can't support ourselves, a feeling of uneasiness comes over us. Accepting support as a favor leads to misfortune. It has to be an equal relationship. Both sides have to carry their own weight. They don't want your nonprofit as a dependent. They want a genuine partnership.

3. Don't Take Them for Granted

When things go well, we tend to grow comfortable and careless. Responsibility accompanies the help we receive. Remain conscientious.

My friend Mary, who works for a media company, signed on to be the corporate sponsor for a nonprofit event. They asked Mary to donate free ads in one of her magazines. She agreed, but says, "We got nothing back. They didn't mention the company in their publicity." Mary had to remind them to add her logo to their program. Understandably, she's irritated. "We feel ripped off. We will never partner with them again."

Through the Points of Light Corporate Institute Jackie Norris consults with corporations all over the world helping them improve their community service initiatives. In the video above, she talks about what companies think about before they offer their resources. Her advice to nonprofits: "Help them help you."

A partnership is like romance. It may take a while to find your perfect match, but if you want them to stick around - be sure that you are not just using them for their money.