Mailbag: Make Your Partnership Proposal Stand Out from the Pack

Q: What elements of our proposal might be considered advantageous when compared with other opportunities the prospect may have?

A:  There are two simple things you can do to make your proposal stand head and shoulders above the rest.

First, ditch the Olympic medal mentality. A blind proposal offering “bronze, silver or gold” lists of benefits at menu pricing is still being offered, but it’s not the most attractive or up-to-date model. Apart from conferences, it doesn’t work very well either. How do you make the medal levels distinctive when you’re asking for funds to carry out a program over the course of several months or a year? How will you establish benefits when the audience is far-flung instead of gathered in a ballroom? Wise nonprofits don’t.

Second, ask smart questions to find out more about the prospect’s marketing goals, then tailor your proposal to address them. If you can address at least two common goals in your proposal, you will be well ahead of the pack.

Mazarine, fundraising guru and blogger at wildwomanfundraising.org, has a list of questions to help nonprofits discover common ground with their prospective funders. I particularly like five of her questions:

  1. Do you want to enhance aspects of your company’s reputation? Asking this will help you get beyond assumptions and learn more about the company’s priorities. A company you assumed wanted to focus on environmental responsibility may really be trying to become known as a great place to work.
  2. What do you most want the public to know about your company? There may be plans on the drawing board that you’re not yet aware of… new products, shifting demographics, or even a new mission statement.
  3. Are you facing challenges in attracting or maintaining a motivated or skilled workforce? Companies that encourage employees to volunteer are more likely to be listed as great workplaces. Providing volunteer opportunities may be the win-win start to a great relationship with your prospective funder.
  4. Would aligning with this nonprofit give your prospective funder a competitive edge? (If not, how did this company make it from your “suspect” list to your “prospect” list, right?)
  5. Are there specific products you are trying to position? The answer may provide food for thought.

Making the connection: To stand out from the pack, break out of the Olympic medal mode and demonstrate how your nonprofit can help the company meet its business goals. Do you have favorite questions to add to the list above?

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