For the past few years, AIM has been working closely with the Heritage Alliance and the Institute of Fundraising on their joint Giving to Heritage programme which offers discounted training in various fundraising topics for the heritage sector. The programme also provides free webinars and AIM was invited to take part in one about how museums and heritage sites can start working with Corporate Partners.
If you have never worked with corporate partners before, it can be difficult to know where to start, so the webinar focused on how museums can take the first steps to working with private businesses. The webinar is now available on YouTube, but we have listed some top tips below too. AIM also has a series of Success Guides that can help you with fundraising, business planning and risk management. If you are an AIM member and have any questions about working with corporate partners, please email email@example.com
Read on for some tips for getting started with corporate partnerships…
Face the fear…and do it anyway!
Never approached corporate organisations to work in partnership before? It’s natural to feel anxious. Make sure you have given time to talk about working with corporate partners at staff and volunteer meetings as well as in board meetings.
Use the team’s individual skills and talents: Working with corporate partners is not the responsibility of just one person; it has to be embedded into an organisations whole way of working for it to be successful and accepted. By using everyone’s skills and talents the members of your team are far more likely to buy into this new way of working if you are including and celebrating them.
What skills do you have in-house? If you have never carried out a skills audit at your museum – now might be a great time to do one. Ask everyone: your board, your Director your admin staff, volunteers and work placement trainees what they think they could offer. This is a good skills audit template from reach skills UK.
List potential partners: Get everyone involved in making a list of possible corporate partners – everyone knows someone! Corporate partners don’t have to be global brands – they can be local businesses too.
Research: look at other museums and heritage organisations that have already used corporate partnerships – ask them for advice and examples of best practice.
What’s your story?
Sell yourself: Like any great relationship, working with corporate partners isn’t just about them supporting you – you also have to sell yourself a bit to be an attractive proposition. What makes you interesting, unique and special….what makes you stand out from other museums and why should a corporate partner choose you?
USP: what are your Unique Selling Points? Create a basic SWOT analysis to determine what makes you stand out from the crowd and to help you match your museum against similar private businesses.
Why do you need support? If you are going to approach corporate partners or indeed – carry out any fundraising – you need to show the reasons for supporting you and make those reasons compelling. The AIDA marketing model shows you how to do this well – more information on this is in the webinar.
What are you doing differently? Chances are you will be far more than ‘just’ a museum – what other services do you offer that make you an attractive proposition and are you revealing this to potential corporate partners? Do you have rooms or space you can hire out – or maybe an interesting collection of old photos of local businesses that could spark interest?
Making the ask isn’t always about cash
You can approach corporate partners to ask for their support in different ways; sometimes, you will also find that they can help in many ways too. They can support you by:
Lending their time: Many corporates have staff community days to help their teams connect with local communities. You can ask corporate partners if they would consider supporting you by volunteering at your museum. This extra help can be used as match funding, for promotional purposes and to assist your museum during busy periods.
Donating Items: Can corporates donate items to you to save you money or offer you raffle prizes?
Lending Experience: Ask partners to lend their experience to help your overall operations, business planning or for specific projects.
Sharing Networks: Sometimes, support from Corporate Partners can simply be help with promoting your museum events and collections to their own networks of customers and suppliers.
Marketing to attract corporate partners
Get out of your sector: there is a tendency for museums and heritage sites to only network with similar organisations. Have the confidence to network and mingle and you might be surprised at who you can work with.
Attend local business networking meetings: most areas have these set up to support businesses. A good place to start is by contacting Business in the Community – a charity that helps create links between charities and the corporate sector.
Find the best fit: make sure any corporate partners match your own ethics and objectives. Things can go wrong when expectations differ!
Promote the need for support: use local papers; local and national media and join business networks to let the corporate community know you are there
Say THANK YOU! We forget to publicly thank corporate partners and thanking those we currently work with will gain the attention of new ones – especially if you add your thanks to your marketing materials, social media, website, press releases or other promotional material.