Recruit More Sponsors, Corporate Partners With Inbound Marketing

On this blog and in Cause Marketing for Dummies I talk a lot about how blogging, social media and SEO can help nonprofits land more sponsors and corporate partners. I call it good old-fashioned marketing. My friends at Boston’s Hubspot have a better name for it: Inbound Marketing.

They define the practice as any marketing tactic that relies on earning people’s attention as opposed to buying it with advertising.

I’m sure this approach is new to most development professionals who work in sponsorship, cause marketing and corporate partnerships. Their idea of prospecting is cold calling and sending out emails to potential partners.

Wouldn’t you rather have qualified prospects come to you? That’s what inbound marketing is all about!

How I Used Inbound Marketing

Here’s how I used inbound marketing to recruit corporate partners for cause marketing programs at a Boston hospital.

Like most nonprofits, we had supporters that we could reach directly without inbound marketing. We already had their attention and recruited them for cause marketing programs. These are your best prospects. If only there were more of them!

iParty, for instance, had a long-standing relationship with the hospital. The owners, Sal & Dorrice Perisano were generous donors to the hospital before they involved their party supply business in fundraising for us. Most nonprofits have one or more existing donors that operate businesses and are open to partnerships. But they are in the bullseye for a reason: most organizations only have one or two of these perfect prospects.

After supporters, you move to the second circle, which is populated with contacts. These companies know you, and you know them, but they’re not supporters. Office supply chain Staples, for instance, was a contact because they were a hospital vendor. We knew them, and they us, but they weren’t supporters of the hospital – at least not yet. But the business relationship we had with them gave us access to their marketing team, which led to a cause marketing partnership. Again, no need for inbound marketing here.

The third circle is the most critical because it’s the largest and has the most opportunity. But bigger also means harder because you have no relationship, no connection with these companies. These companies are so cold you can’t even call them prospects! I call them suspects. Most nonprofits think they need a sledgehammer to break down the doors to these companies. Bold stroke, for sure. But what they need is a magnet that will draw these prospects in and warm them up. This is when inbound marketing is so valuable!

Faced with this same challenge in our own recruitment program, we turned to blogging, social media and SEO as a magnet to pull these prospects in.

The Blog

I started six months into my job at the hospital to educate companies – especially those located in my target area, Boston – on cause marketing and my team’s work in the area. Selfish Giving was something they could find online that was informative and useful but not promotional.

Social Media

We focused on Twitter – accounts for the whole team, not just for me – to engage Boston companies and share content. We also distributed our blog content to other sites, such as, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and other cause-related blogs.


Our blogging efforts – and a landing page for a webinar we created to educate partners on one of the easiest and most lucrative types of cause marketing, point-of-sale – helped us top the search engines for such keywords as “cause marketing boston” and “picking a cause for cause marketing.”

The Results

Inbound marketing had a noticeable impact on our program. Not only did it help us recruit more corporate partners but it had an impact we didn’t expect: it strengthened our partnerships with existing partners as they grew to respect our inbound efforts and social media expertise. They looked to us for credible, intelligent advice on how to effectively use these new platforms.

I bet your organization could benefit from learning more about inbound marketing and how it can help you recruit more corporate partners.

This article was originally written by Joe Waters and posted on Selfish Giving, which can be found here.

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