Written by Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA, CFRE
CEO/Founder | Growth Owl, LLC

As corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a growing area of interest for associations to consider for sponsorship and partnership opportunities, both association leaders and business development executives have a unique opportunity to foster relationships that drive non dues revenue, provide member value, and increase visibility.

That being said, it’s important to understand the value in engaging CSR as well as the best ways for association leadership and business development professionals to engage CSR executives.

The Value of CSR Partnerships

Aligning Missions for Greater Impact: Many corporations seek to align their CSR initiatives with organizations that share their values. By partnering with CSR executives, associations can amplify their missions and leverage corporate resources to achieve shared goals. This alignment can result in more substantial and sustainable impact for both the association and the corporation.

Accessing Additional Resources: Corporations often allocate significant budgets for their CSR activities.  Associations that successfully engage with CSR executives can gain access to sponsorship support, industry expertise, and thought leadership. These resources can be pivotal in scaling programs and expanding reach.

Enhanced Credibility and Visibility: Collaborating with reputable corporations can boost an association’s credibility and visibility. Many CSR partnerships often come with co-branding opportunities, joint marketing efforts, and educational initiatives, which can attract new members, engage existing members, and generate other partner/sponsor support.

Action Items for Association Leaders

Develop a Clear Value Proposition:  Craft a compelling narrative that highlights how your association’s mission aligns with the CSR goals of potential corporate partners. Clearly articulate the mutual benefits of a partnership, emphasizing how it will enhance both your association’s impact and the corporation’s CSR objectives.

Engage with CSR Execs Online and In Person: Attend industry events, CSR forums, and networking opportunities where CSR leaders are present. A great place to start is online via LinkedIn groups with CSR interests.  Establish personal connections by engaging in conversations, sharing insights, and demonstrating a genuine interest in their CSR initiatives. Building trust and rapport is crucial for long-term partnerships.

Demonstrate Tangible Impact:  Show your association’s impact. Use member profiles, impact reports, and testimonials to show the results of your programs. This data-driven approach will help CSR executives see the value in partnering with your association and the potential for meaningful outcomes.

Action Items for Association Business Development Executives

Develop “The Why” and Communicate Up Front: Conduct thorough research to identify companies whose CSR priorities align with your association’s sponsorship opportunity. Look at the CSR section of their website, annual report, and other reports to the community. Set up Google Alerts for company CSR news.  Once you’re ready to contact, clearly communicate in your outreach why their corporation is a match to support your opportunity.  They want to see that you can make the connection before they engage with you.

Practice the Power of Brevity:  As with other corporate decision makers, CSR executives respond best to brief but impactful outreach.  Keep initial email outreach to 250 words or less.  Focus on who you are, what is “the why” to the CSR executive in relation to your opportunity (see above), and what do you want next (a meeting, a chance to send other info, etc.)

Customize Proposals:  Avoid generic proposals or sponsorship one sheets. Tailor your pitch to address the specific needs and goals keeping in mind “the why” mentioned above. Highlight how your association can provide unique value and support their CSR strategy. Customized proposals demonstrate your commitment and understanding of their CSR objectives.

For both association leadership and association business development executives, engaging with CSR offers a pathway to enhanced resources, greater impact, and heightened awareness. By developing clear value propositions, creating thoughtful outreach, and demonstrating tangible impact, associations can forge powerful alliances with CSR executives. This strategic engagement not only has the possibility of increasing non-dues revenue but also provides significant member value and boosts the association's credibility.  CSR outreach is not just an opportunity but a vital strategy for associations aiming to thrive in today's competitive business landscape.

headshot - lori

Lori Zoss Kraska, MBA, CFRE is the CEO/Founder of Growth Owl, LLC. She possesses over 22 years expertise in revenue generation management, corporate sponsorship support, corporate cause marketing, fundraising, corporate social responsibility, non profit consulting, executive sales management, training, and marketing strategy roles earning her a reputation for establishing pathways quickly to exceeding revenue/fundraising goals, building high performance teams, developing relationships quickly, and outpacing expectations.

You can hear more from Lori on PAR's podcast, Association RevUP, as she dives into how to RevUP Corporate Connections in Episode 5.