How can you get community businesses to pay attention to you? Help them meet their goals. Know what their goals are: increasing visibility, acquiring customers, keeping customers, and reducing costs. What are the types of things you can do to help them meet those goals?
Improving Their Visibility
How do you improve their visibility? Through your communications vehicles. We talked about using media to attract them to you in Creating Awareness in the Business Community. There are other communication vehicles you can use as well. For example, you can mention businesses that have supported or worked with you in your press releases. You can write an article about them to include in your newsletter. You can list them in your annual report. Other things you can do is to provide signage with their name and logo at a fundraising event, workshop, of conference you host. They can provide branded giveaways for event attendees. You can put their name and/or logo on your website, newsletter, event programs, or email campaign signatures. You may be able to think of other communication vehicles you have at your disposal that can be used to help them increase their visibility.
You can also have them contribute to your communications content. For example, just as you can submit articles for their publications, you can ask them to submit articles for your publications. You can have them submit content for your social media postings, possibly boosting those postings. You can ask them to speak at one of your events. You, of course, would have to make it clear that their content must meet your approval first to make sure that you get what you need from them, and not just a piece of unabashed self-promotion.
The advantage of having them provide content is that they get to interact directly with new potential customers. Just as you are trying to develop relationship with potential customers, in this case business donors, they are trying to develop a relationship with their potential customers, in this case purchasers of their goods or services. The question then is, what groups does my nonprofit reach that the businesses consider good potential customers?
Expanding Their Customer Base
Companies are smart. Most of them understand that the smaller your target, the better chance of hitting the bullseye, that is, the more focused the group of potential customers they try to reach, the better the chance they will acquire new purchasers. And acquiring additional purchasers leads to greater revenues. If your nonprofit interacts with a constituency that they want to reach, they may be interested in developing a relationship with you. The question then becomes, does your nonprofit interact with groups of people who are part of their target market? And you may interact with more of their potential customers than you think. For example, if your events attract a high-income audience, maybe luxury cars, furriers, jewelers, and manufacturers or sellers of other high-end products would be a good target audience for your organization.
Number one, think of your nonprofit’s staff. How large is your staff? What are their needs? For example, if you have a large staff, they need everyday things like banking services, insurance, new or used automobiles, food, day care, prescription drugs and more. How do you communicate with your nonprofit’s staff – staff meetings? Intranet? A for-profit company in the business in meeting of meeting these types of needs may be interested in partnering with you financially in order to interact with your staff.
Another constituency your nonprofit reaches is your volunteers. Like your staff, you volunteers have everyday needs. How do you communicate with your volunteers?
Similarly, consider your advocates and other collaborators. As well as your donors. It might be nice if you occasionally meet their needs like they meet yours. And I’m not talking about selling donor lists. That’s a no-no. What I am talking about is having a business sponsor a newsletter or volunteer event or an email campaign targeted to your different constituencies.
Businesses are going to want to qualify your leads, that is, get detailed information about the different characteristics each group has so they can assess the market fit. So be ready to provide information about the groups you interact with. Like standard demographic characteristics – age, gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, and income. You might also be asked about their likes and dislikes. The more specific you can be, the better your potential financial return. Remember, the more focused the target, the bigger the bullseye.
You need to know, too, what size your groups are. The bigger your focused group is, or their target audience, the more valuable the interacting with them is to the business. The key is not in sheer numbers, though. The key is the number of potential customers they can reach. The more you can qualify your constituent groups for them, the more interested they will be in partnering with you.
And don’t just go after any business. Target the businesses that have something in common with you. As we have been talking about, the commonality may be a shared customer base.
And don’t forget about the secondary relationships. For example, does your nonprofit interact with legislators or other regulators? Company executive may be interested in interacting with them too. What kind of networking events do you offer where they both can meet?
Increasing Customer Loyalty
Not only are businesses interested in acquiring new customers, they are also interested in keeping customers. In fact, companies want to increase customer loyalty buy more or buy up. And buy their brand to the exclusion of all others. It is proven that customers are more likely to support companies that have social responsibility policies One of the way companies do this is by associating themselves with nonprofit causes who have good reputations in the community. In other words, nonprofits with good brands. The implication here is that being a good cause is not enough. You must bring something of more tangible value to the business if you want to realize the biggest financial contributions.
Knowing your reputation in the community, your brand awareness, means knowing how many likes and followers you have on social media. And how many people in the community support your agency – like volunteers and donors and advocates. Who has endorsed you? What do people think of you? Just what is your brand?
In addition to brand followers, you can also bring value to a company through your nonprofit’s operations. For example, businesses often support employee volunteers. What volunteer opportunities do you offer? Not only that businesses can participate in, but also that they can sponsor. How do you provide services to the people you serve? How can company employee volunteers reduce your operating costs? For example, does your organization send cards to people who are home-bound? Do volunteers sign them? Can a for-profit business donate the labor and cover the costs of the cards and the mailing if you allow them to use their logo on your materials? Or can your local grocery food chain branded goods and volunteers to package them for your food pantry? Can you instead of just covering costs, get more? It all depends on how much a target market your constituencies are. The more your market aligns with theirs, the more valuable the relationship with you.
Never underestimate how much a good market fit is worth. Businesses spend millions and millions of dollars on marketing and advertising. While you probably won’t command millions, you can optimize your opportunities. Do your research first. Know your statistics. Before presenting an opportunity in final form, explore how much monetary value these opportunities are worth to your for-profit partners.
Reducing Their Costs
As in all businesses, for-profit and nonprofit, it’s not only revenues, or money coming, that counts. It’s also the money going out. It is net income, revenues minus expenses, that counts. High expenses eat away of profits. Companies are just as interested in decreasing costs as they are increasing revenues. So, what can your nonprofit do to decrease their expenses?
We’ve talked at length about their visibility among their target markets. In addition to increasing sales, increasing market visibility decreases advertising costs. That is, if you can deliver on your promises. Make sure to check in regularly with the company if they are seeing an uptick in customers due to your nonprofit’s endeavors.
All companies also incur employee training costs. If your nonprofit’s volunteer opportunities align with any skill attainment goals the company has, you have a potential partnership. Always ask about company employee training needs to get the most out of their employee volunteer programs. For example, if education about the dangers of smoking is part of your mission, maybe you can run a smoking cessation program for the company’s employees.
In addition to employee training, businesses also invest in recruiting and retaining top talent. If you can help a company attract and retain good employees, you will enhance your value to them. Association with a meaningful cause is important to toady’s workforce. Studies show that for-profit businesses who align themselves with reputable social causes, not only see an increase in sales, they also experience less employee turnover. Employees, like consumers, are more motivated to work for and stay with companies who do good than those who do not. And some businesses limit their charitable contributions to those organizations where their employees are involved as volunteers.
All these reductions in costs point to the value relationships with nonprofits can have. When you approach a business with a potential partnership opportunity, make sure your mention the value of reducing advertising, recruiting, training, and retention costs.
Wrapping It Up
For maximum donations, be creative in the use of your communication vehicles to give them visibility. Know their target market and your constituency group characteristics. Be ready to talk about the value of your brand. Point out the value of your marketing and volunteer opportunities in reducing their costs. And you will realize more revenue that you did before.