Patience. Not very sexy is it? Not as appealing as success! But they go hand in hand. Bill Gates, of all people, knows this to be true.
In my blog last week, I highlighted the internal factors that underpin a successful approach in corporate partnerships. Here, I tackle the EXTERNAL factors.
Is there appetite within the corporate community to partner with your cause? Does your charity/non-profit sit within the top 3 causes that prompt consumers to switch corporate brands to support you? What’s the current corporate sentiment towards partnerships, given we’re at the precipice of an economic downturn? Understanding the corporate landscape, the four purses that you can tap into and the reasons for partnering, is vital. I find it extraordinary that some non-profits invest in training about major gifts, fundraising, bequests etc to hone their skills and understand the giving environment, but assume corporates are the same. They’re not.
And the last thing – the most important thing – is timing. Timing is the most common reason non-profits fail in corporate partnerships. Because they approach corporates when THEY consider it the right time, or when something needs funding. Instead, it’s vital to know the financial year of your corporate prospect. Most global companies operating in Australia work on a calendar year, so Jan-Dec. Most Australian companies operate on a July-June financial year. The latter are the majority, I’d say as high as 70%. The time to approach is at least 3 months before the financial year begins, as this is the time when budgets are being discussed and allocated. If you approach when the budget has been set, you’re left with crumbs, and crumbs do not maketh a corporate partnership. So, for global brands like Oxfam your optimum time to approach global prospects is August. If you’re an Australian charity then your prospects will most likely be Australian companies, so Feb-March is the best time to approach.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
Another timing-related aspect is the time it takes to prepare for, research, approach and win corporate partners. Our program takes 7 months to implement and then getting a partnership across the line depends on the type of company, with some taking a long time to make decisions. Franchise-structured companies (like Boost) take the longest because there are lots of ‘owners’. Private companies can make decisions quickly, especially if you have the owner in the room.
So realistically you’re looking at 7 months to implement our BePartnerReady.com® process (about 20 hours a month), then add 3-4 months of pitching to a handful of hot prospects. It could then take another 3-6 months to get the partnership across the line. So, in some instances we’re talking about 18 – 24 months before seeing a result.
This is to win a major, 6-figure partnership. The bigger the deal, the longer it takes. So, if you really do want those game-changing multi-million dollar partnerships, embrace patience. And ensure that management and Board embrace it too. Setting fanciful budgets and unrealistic time-frames is just going to lead to stress, burnout, sabotage and losing great talent.
And so, to Bill Gates. You might be thinking, it’s ok for him to talk about patience, given he’s worth about $US103 billion. For sure, he was undoubtedly talented and a courageous young man, but Bill wasn’t handed success on a platter. His first company, founded in high school, was called Traf-O-Data, a traffic-counting system for local government. It made no money and failed. But Bill used the knowledge in microprocessors he’d gleaned to form a new company called Microsoft. Imagine if he’d given up? Imagine how different our world would look without Microsoft. And consider the projects that would not have received a slice of the $US36 billion donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?
Corporate partnerships is no different. It takes hard work, patience and never giving up. Fortunately, you don’t have to experience failure as the steps to success are mapped out (in our BePartnerReady.com process infographic, download here).