Fostering a 'Win-Win' Corporate Partnership

"Impact" is the word 'du jour' in nonprofit development offices. As donors have become more sophisticated, they are moving away from simply considering the worthiness of a given cause to focus more on effect: the measurable impact of an organization's charitable programming.

For many corporations, this focus on impact is not limited to the results achieved by a nonprofit. They also want to ensure that their philanthropic funds have an effect on their company, from reinforcing the mission and achieving the company's own social objectives to fostering goodwill among employees. These companies want to find a charitable partner who shares their vision.

While this shift from "corporate giving" to "corporate partnership" requires sharper stewardship by development officers, it is a win-win for both parties. Developing a mutually beneficial partnership can advance a company's objectives while yielding a strong and enduring supporter for the nonprofit.

Take the YMCA of Greater New York's partnership with Delta Air Lines. This week, the annual "Holiday in the Hangar" event will once again connect our two organizations to make a difference in the lives of 150 children from families in New York City. The annual celebration gives these young children - most who have never been on an airplane before - the opportunity to board a real airplane and "fly" a few laps around John F. Kennedy Airport in order to reach an aircraft hangar decorated like the North Pole, filled with fun activities and notable New Yorkers like Mr. Met.

We are proud of this corporate partnership because, by coming together, we accomplish something special for all parties. While many of us take flying for granted, for these children it is an experience of a lifetime, evident by their looks of joy upon entering the winter wonderland. Delta employees - who are instrumental in facilitating the experience - get to see firsthand how happy they make these young passengers and re-experience the awe that airplanes can inspire. At the same time, Delta's partnership with us is a form of recognition for the power of the Y's programs.

Although this is one of my favorite partnerships that the Y has, not every engagement has to be on the scale of Holiday in the Hanger. Engagements can range from employee volunteering to joint fundraising programs to other special events. For Delta, their year-round partnership with the Y has included sponsoring the Y's Global Teens program that affords New York City teens the opportunity to engage in service learning and cultural exchange internationally to supporting the New Americans Welcome Centers that help New Yorkers assimilate and successfully pass their citizenship exams.

Ultimately, corporations want to be able to share the story of their engagement and how the partnership is an extension of their core values and beliefs. Find ways to help them gain that visibility, whether it's through corporate communications, earned media or press releases, in the non-profit media or elsewhere.

Whatever form a collaboration takes, the engagement should not mark the end of communication between your organization and the corporation. Development officers should treat partnerships as you would any valued relationship by continuously engaging throughout the year. Show the company how their time, efforts and resources are going towards making the difference you both want to make.