Source 7: Making the Right Deal
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Source 7: Making the Right Deal


Negotiating an agreement with a for-profit organization can be challenging. Follow these steps to succeed.

  1. Stay true to you mission.
    Remember your values. Don’t emulate the American Dental Society, which was criticized for accepting financial support from Coca-Cola.

  2. Know your organization’s worth.
    Corporate sponsorship dollars are very different from donations or grants. Companies see them as marketing deals—not investments. Too often, nonprofits fail to see the difference. Companies want to know the value they’ll get from the deal.

  3. Protect your reputation.  
    An association with a well-respected nonprofit is gold to many marketers, so protect it diligently.

  4. Keep tight control of your organization’s intellectual property.
    Maintain the right to approve every use of your name, logo, and identifying descriptive phrases—and inspect all press releases. If you provide a link to a sponsor’s Web site, monitor the site to ensure it doesn’t contain content that might reflect negatively on your organization.

  5. Gets everything in writing.
    Develop your own model agreement for corporate sponsorships. For-profit agreements tend to be written to their advantage.

  6. Have an exit strategy. 
    Lay down the circumstances under which partners may end the agreement. These could include failing to perform a material term of the contract, not making a required payment or product donation, filing for bankruptcy, or engaging in an activity that might harm your reputation.

  7. Don’t sell out.
    Help your partner get exposure to your constituency, but don’t create the perception that you traded your integrity for a few extra bucks. Avoid tacky, inappropriate publicity. Give corporate partners detailed guidelines for promotional materials and approve everything before it’s sent.

  8. Set strict ground rules. 
    Develop guiding principles—or “deal breakers”—that would halt your organization’s willingness to negotiate further. These could include refusing to endorse products or provide exclusivity, refusing to sell the partner’s products or services to your clients, or refusing to ask clients to sell them. Make the hard decisions on what your organization will and will not do for corporate support.

  9. Control efforts to market directly to your clients. 
    Never hand over your mailing list. You can publicize the partnership in your newsletter, Web site, or local newspaper.

  10. Make sure it’s a good fit.  
    A sponsor’s ability to throw money at a charity doesn’t make it the “right” partner. Look for companies with values similar to yours. Find a business that’s willing to take the time to understand your mission and that shares your view that community investment, teamwork, and philanthropy are important.

  11. Designate one deal maker.
    When wooing a company, pick one person to lead the negotiations, along with a backup. Give the leader full authority to make decisions for the organization. Don’t allow back-seat driving or second-guessing from the board or executive director. No company wants to hear: “Well, these terms sound good, but I’ll have to go back to my board and run this past them.” Such fits and starts are deal killers.

  12. Meet with the most highly ranked executive possible.
    Start your negotiations with the corporate employee who will be directly involved in the partnership and has the power to make all decisions. Be firm on this point—it signals that you’re a skilled and savvy negotiator. It also saves you valuable time.

  13. Be confident. 
    Never let the for-profits think they’re better than you. Some people in the for-profit world think nonprofits are less efficient and less effective. They won’t think that if you’re prepared, know your organization, and don’t waver. 

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