Many development teams dread cold outreach. It's labor-intensive. And rejection...it's like high school all over again.
The easier way is to network and land introductions to decision-makers.
I'm all for this approach—especially if it's producing a solid pipeline of corporate partners for you. Networking, referrals, and word of mouth should be a focal point of your corporate development strategy.
But what happens when those sources dry up? Or they're not producing the volume you need to hit your fundraising targets?
Many nonprofits describe this as "hitting a wall" in corporate development.
You've tapped your personal network. And your board has tapped theirs.
What we've found works best when this happens is to supplement your personal connections with strategic cold outreach.
No, this doesn't involve spamming people. Or "spray and pray" methods where you email blast thousands of people with your unsolicited newsletters.
This is a targeted approach that requires upfront research and personalization. You have a reason for reaching out.
It's what we specialize in at Blissful Prospecting that's helped our clients connect with brands like REI, Victoria's Secret, Hanes, Carhartt, Fabletics, and many more.
Here's the five-step process for finding and connecting with corporate partners outside of your personal network:
This approach works best when you model your past successes. This way you have practical examples of partnerships you can share with relevant brands.
If your goal is to partner with more apparel brands, it's great to have a few examples of apparel brands you've partnered with.
Start by examining your most successful partnerships in the last few years. Find the partners that...
Apollo.io is great because you can upload a bulk list of companies into their system.
Look for patterns in the following:
Hold onto this information.
On a spreadsheet or word document, take the information you gathered and write out your requirements for an ideal partner.
Go a few steps deeper than the patterns you identified above:
Here's an example for a nonprofit that works with shoe/apparel brands:
Using Apollo.io or LinkedIn Sales Navigator, create a profile using the Ideal Partner Profile you came up with above.
Start looking at companies that meet your criteria.
This is known as an account-based approach in marketing and sales speak. It's most efficient to build a list of companies you want to partner with first, and then to find the contacts at those companies.
Now it's time to identify decision-makers and champions at the brands on your hitlist.
Again, emulate your past partnerships. Who were you interacting with at those companies? What were their job titles?
We find that the best people to reach out to are typically in marketing, PR, and/or corporate responsibility. Founders/owners are also great if the company is under a few hundred employees.
We use Skip Miller's approach in Selling Above and Below the Line to build personas. He recommends the following:
Here's an example of a list of personas:
Once you have the personas, you can start pulling contact information.
Again, I recommend staying in Apollo.io because everything's there in one place.
Here are the tools you can use to find email addresses:
We use a framework we built called the REPLY Method for the email structure.
Once you've written your emails, it's time to start sending them. To emphasize again—if you're not willing to research and personalize the outreach...DO NOT BOTHER sending the emails.
You'll look spammy, get your domain blacklisted, and tarnish your nonprofit's reputation.
Sending emails is a lot of work. Fortunately, there are many tools that can help you automate some of the mundane parts of following up.
I recommend using a Sales Engagement Platform. These are tools that high volume sales teams use to manage and automate the activities associated with cold outreach.
What are your biggest challenges in breaking out of your personal network to build corporate partnerships? Leave a comment and I'll help point you in the right direction.
Nonprofit development is tough work.
"Too much to do and not enough time," is what we hear from a lot of development professionals.
You have aggressive fundraising goals. Securing budget for your department is a constant battle. And you could probably use an extra person or two to help with development.
If corporate partnerships are a part of your fundraising strategy, it's even tougher.
Corporate outreach takes serious time and resources to research companies, make sure their mission aligns with yours, find the decision-makers, get their contact information, figure out what to say, and follow up. Especially if you're approaching brands you don't have a personal connection with.
This article will be helpful if you can relate to any of the following:
Many of the tasks involved in corporate development are tedious and repetitive. The good thing is that there are many tools to help you with this.
Here are three strategies for saving time in your search for corporate partners:
The most labor-intensive part of corporate development usually happens at the front-end:
For gathering this information, I recommend using a tool called Apollo.io. They have a free plan you can use to research companies. And they also give you 1,000 contacts for free to start out. Then it's $40/mo.
Step #1: Start with building your requirements for a solid corporate partner.
Step #2: Then figure out who the decision-makers are. For nonprofits, they usually fit into these roles.
Step #3: Use Apollo.io to find and pull their email addresses and phone numbers.
This should save you 1-2 hours each week from having to manually hunt for companies, decision-makers, and their contact information.
If you've ever prospected for corporate partners, you know that it's labor-intensive. Especially if it's cold outreach and you don't have a personal connection with the decision-maker.
The good thing is that there are tools built specifically to manage this type of outreach.
Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs)
Sending 50-100 emails to prospects each week takes forever if you have to manually send every email. Not to mention the follow-ups.
SEPs help you manage and automate the activities associated with cold outreach. You can use tools like MixMax (plans start at $29/mo) or YesWare (plans start at $35/mo) to set up email sequences, calls, and other prospecting tasks.
You do all of the work beforehand, then hit send and the tools will automate the follow-up.
A great SEP will easily cut down the time it takes for outreach by 25-50%. You could use that time to reach out to more prospects!
Calendar Scheduling Tools
Ever go back and forth with a prospect to schedule a time to chat? Calendly (free) is a great tool for scheduling meetings and saving back and forth emails.
We find it's very effective to create dedicated time blocks for prospecting. You can accomplish a lot in an undistracted one hour block.
If you don't make the time for reaching out to corporate partners, it's not going to happen. And if you do it periodically throughout the day, you're losing productivity by task switching.
Create recurring time blocks in your schedule for outreach. These tools should easily save you another 1-2 hours every week.
You might be using Salesforce or Raiser's Edge for your CRM. But you've probably noticed those tools are a little clunky to use.
And they don't really help you prep for calls and follow up with prospects.
Create a Call Prep Routine
If you create a process for call prep, it has multiple benefits. You have something repeatable that saves you time. And you have a process you can also delegate.
Make a bullet point list of everything you do to prep for corporate partnership calls. Be specific with exactly what information you're looking.
Create an outline you can use very every call. Include sections for specific information you want to know prior to the call, questions to ask during the call, and action steps you finish the call with.
Create Templates for Follow Up
If you're using MixMax or Yesware (mentioned above), you can create email templates and send them out. Create a template that does 80% of the work for you when writing emails, then personalize the rest. This will save you a ton of time in writing emails from scratch every time.
Building these processes and routines should save you another hour or so every week.
What are your favorite strategies, tools, or tactics for keeping your development team productive? Let me know in the comments.