How Higher Ed Institutions Can Look To Corporate Partnerships To Raise Much-Needed Funds
The understatement of the year: 2020 changed everything! It changed the way we fundraise, the way we connect others to our mission, the way we serve our communities, and even what we need out of collaboration.
While the education sector saw significant declines last year…
- By the end of the 2020 calendar year, roughly 65% of colleges had raised less than they had the previous year. (Source: https://www.philanthropy.com/article/65-percent-of-colleges-raised-less-in-2020-than-2019-survey-finds?cid=gen_sign_in)
Did you know that corporate giving accounted for nearly 2/3 of COVID-19 philanthropic funding at nearly $7.9 billion? (Source: Philanthropy And COVID-19 In The First Half Of 2020). Their commitment to tangible change in communities across the nation is only growing.
With respect to the higher education sector, we expect to see more shifts from traditional institutional giving and corporate philanthropy into more purpose-driven partnerships that leverage expertise. When we join sectors, join resources, and create collaborative goals – big things can happen to change the course of our world for the better.
Take these examples of how corporations partnered with higher education institutions to provide equitable access to education in 2020.
With so much activity, so much hope, where should you set your focus to grow your Institution’s corporate partnerships?
I. Familiarize yourself and your team with purpose threads.
Five trends struck us as standout themes in 2020 and ones we expect will continue…
- Mixed Reality
As defined by Microsoft, Mixed Reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking the links between human, computer, and environment interaction.
In 2020, we witnessed a necessity to leverage technology and build new digital experiences to support mission-focused fundraising and business as usual. As in-person connections are still limited, nonprofits have adopted a hybrid fundraising reality – one that marries the physical and virtual world – as a mainstay moving forward.
Partnership Example: Hellmann’s Canada + Second Harvest, Canada
- Sustainable Gains
From the plant-based revolution, to continued waste reduction, from greener sourcing to carbon transparency, companies cross-industry are making (and reporting) their sustainable strides while building significant customer trust along the way. 2020 bore fruit to new and innovative ways for brands to communicate their tangible traction, not just lofty commitments.
Partnership Example: Just Salad’s Carbon Labeling
Social issues are still a source of fulfillment for many individuals. Giving back, making a difference, and inciting change makes us feel human again. Many nonprofit organizations leveraged technology in 2020 to connect people with their mission and satisfy this basic human need.
Partnership Example: Poly and Global Nomads Group
- Systemic Justice
2020 was a turning point for exposing systemic racial bias within our culture and Corporate America. It also demanded that companies take concerted actions toward building a diverse and inclusive workforce. 85% of Americans expect companies to help address racial inequality (up from 81% in 2018). While consumer call for change was evident, the impact of systemic justice on a company’s bottom line could be the underlying reason behind a swell of adoption in 2020.
Partnership Example: Apple launches $100M Racial Equity and Justice Initiative
- Inclusive Norms
2020 underscored the need for a greater understanding, empathy and acceptance of everyone – regardless of their ethnicity, disability, race, gender or orientation. As we enter 2021, there is an even greater call for unity and healing within the U.S. and globally. Companies are now creating products and partnerships that invite and welcome all types of customers. It’s no longer the exception, but the norm.
Partnership Example: LEGO and the American Printing House
II. Understand your value to the corporate sector.
A new world requires new ways of communicating and connecting. Higher Education is reassessing their opportunities to engage and add value to their corporate supporters. Moving beyond a singular event sponsorship, consider building a comprehensive asset matrix that clearly defines recognition opportunities, employee and mission engagement moments, and marketing activations across the entire organization. In analyzing your value to a company, you can also identify a minimum donation commitment that corporate partners are held to – which also helps your institution manage its much-needed human resources.
III. Dig into ripe industries.
So many industries are still struggling coming out of 2020, but perhaps even more are thriving. Dive into the new frontier and consider building partnerships with brands you have never approached before. The Top 10 industries we think are ripe for partnerships are:
- Cyber Security
- Digital Marketing
- Grocery + Food Delivery
- Video Conferencing
- Video Streaming
IV. Level-up your strategies.
The intersection of profit and purpose is only growing and becoming more crowded. If your Institution has already built an impressive corporate portfolio, now is the time to focus, customize, target and operationalize partnership development and stewardship. More specifically, consider these top trending partnership strategies…
- Leveraging Basic Business Principles.
With fewer resources and big goals, partnership professionals must accomplish more with less. This requires a more targeted approach to development, leveraging basic business principles to support growth.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we must evolve and step into a new way of living. Institutions and companies are collaborating to create innovative social solutions that make a tangible impact.
- Net Revenue.
With 85% of a nonprofit’s corporate income comprised of recurring revenue, stewardship has always been a priority. Sophisticated institutions are now focusing on generating more support from their current partners.
I personally believe in the power of partnerships – I always have! It’s exciting to see the growth in commitment and sophistication with which Corporate America approaches its purpose-driven strategies. I’m proud to support so many charitable organizations and Higher Education Institutions that are on the frontlines of social change every day. They are innovative, resourceful and resilient! Blending these two sectors for the purpose of solving our most pressing challenges can be magical. Let’s create some magic in 2021! Only together can we achieve it…