Press Your Suit: Approaching Corporate Partnerships

By Amanda Rigali on

PhoebeFrom what kind of body language to use around potential donors (note: a firm, two-pump handshake is recommended), to the most effective way to manage your organisation’s data , there are endless facets to the role of a good fundraiser, and we are getting to grips with more and more of them as the Fellowship year goes on. I’m learning to look for opportunity everywhere; to note down a name or an idea that might be lighted on casually, and make a note to do some research later on. Walking down the street or climbing an endless underground escalator, I’m paying attention to the appeals that plaster the walls – what techniques are others using to ask for support? And what can I take from that? Likewise, out and about, I keep eye out for any businesses that just might become prospects for corporate partnership. Regardless of whether any of these notes and ideas come to anything, the important thing is to be constantly alert to opportunity.

That last theme, cultivating corporate support, is an area that the majority of us are keen to learn more about. This might seem slightly counter-intuitive; corporate giving tends to make up a smaller part of an organisation’s fundraising income profile than grants from Trusts and Foundations or Individual Supporter memberships and donations, and consequently more focus and resource is dedicated (in our experiences at least) to the latter two. At the National Arts Fundraising School, we learned that corporate giving is one of the most difficult fundraising strands to develop successfully. There are so many things to consider with corporate partnerships – simply identifying some synergy between your organisation and their company, in the first place, as well as the various considerations about their objectives, motivations and timelines, particularly when corporate budgets, including any philanthropic giving, is often committed far in advance. Nevertheless, the benefits an organisation can gain when the right partnership is struck (and for the issues surrounding the downsides of ostensibly ‘wrong’ partnerships, see Lindsay Harrod on ‘BP or not BP?’) mean that corporate giving can remain a very attractive prospect.

ageas 2During our Corporate Partnership training, we were fortunate to benefit from the expertise of both Emma O’Connell, Director of Talent Development at Cause4 and Alison Pascalides, Director of Development at the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, both of whom have extensive experience in forging corporate partnerships. The Ageas Festival itself is enormously successful in securing a great number and variety of corporate partnerships, from its overarching sponsor Ageas to companies sponsoring individual festival events. There was much discussion about the idea I mentioned above, of there being a ‘fit’ or point of confluence between the arts organisation and the prospective corporate partner; interestingly, this isn’t always clear-cut. While it seems obvious that a bookshop might want to sponsor readings and other literary events, other businesses – law and accountancy forms, for example, may not necessarily share an affinity with the artistic content, but do share an interest in the audience and the demographic. This is about being an intelligent fundraiser; being prepared to do your research and put yourself into the mindset of a business to really work out what their objectives are.

Throughout our Fellowship training to date, it has been emphasised that fundraisers have to be performers, and have to be prepared to occupy a variety of different roles and mindsets from day to day. In the context of corporate sponsorship, clearly this means that as fundraiser you must be prepared to perform the role of a business person – to be able, as Emma pointed out, to talk in terms of demographic figures and communication statistics, to be au fait with acronyms like EAV (estimated advertising value) and OTV (opportunities to view), and to be confident talking about the intricacies of tax.

To me, and I think to many of us, this seems daunting but exciting; it’s a very valuable language and image to be able to speak and present, not just as a fundraiser but as a professional working in the arts sector. Looking to the future, these are valuable lessons for us in how to be the best advocates for a sector in which we all have such an abiding belief.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *