Accelerating the Status Quo

Re-Inventing a Legacy Organization with Data

  Nancy Stinson Harris

  National VP of Corporate Sponsorships

  The Arthritis Foundation

Interview Insights from Nancy Stinson Harris, National VP of Corporate Partnerships at the Arthritis Foundation


Q: Nancy, we often hear from nonprofits that have been around for many decades that their biggest challenge is ensuring their organization feels relevant, in an ever-changing landscape with innovative, progressive causes often owning much of the national conversation. Arthritis Foundation was founded in 1948, yet you’re seeing growth and having success in staying top of mind with donors and consumers, despite that challenge. Any words of wisdom for other nonprofit partnerships professionals?

A: Oh, it is a challenge. But the Arthritis Foundation is needed more than ever, with more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children living with the disease today. So our team accepts the challenge and is working to re-invent ourselves one day at a time. A few tips I can share based on my experiences:

          1. Find a New Way to Appeal to Corporate Partners
            The Arthritis Foundation is in its second year of the Let’s Get a Grip campaign (LGGA,) a new national platform with a call-to-action to consumers and corporate partners to come together to “get a grip” on Arthritis. With the support of our partner Accelerist, we refined this year’s strategy to include digital and grassroots engagement (beyond our owned channels). The campaign represents a new way of talking about our cause, and a new platform driving significant value to our corporate partners, such as Cheribundi and CVS. We had to really dig deep with the Accelerist team to understand what the corporate sector is looking for in a nonprofit partner, and this looks different than it did 20, 10, and even 5 years ago. We increased our impressions, engagement touchpoints and revenue this year with LGGA, and we know it will only continue to grow.
          2. Wow Them with Data
            You’ve all heard it before… corporate partners want it—no, need it. In an effort for your organization to stay competitive with other newer, shinier nonprofits, perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can offer is for nonprofits of all sizes and tenures to embrace data and make it part of your story. At the Arthritis Foundation, we use audience data that we received from Accelerist to share a deep, psychosocial understanding of who the Arthritis Foundation supporter is. The depth and breadth of what we were able to share helps us paint a strong picture to companies like CVS on the power of reaching our audience. We’re even taking it a step further and working with Accelerist to not just measure impact, but actually place a tangible value on our partnerships, so we can go to our partners and give them hard numbers around the ROI of our partnership. Not every nonprofit can say they are doing that, so we are standing out.
          3. Set Your Team Up for Success
            I’m lucky to lead an incredible team of corporate partnership professionals at the Arthritis Foundation. One of the key ways I lead and support my team is to ensure they have all the resources needed to get their jobs done effectively. Resources like Accelerist, allowing us to have CSR-focused research profiles for companies and contact information of CSR decision makers at our fingertips, allows my team so much time back in the prospecting process, which has allowed us to make a great deal of traction with our pipeline in the past year.
          4. Find Your Champions
            The social impact industry is moving and evolving fast, and I’m constantly seeking to stay up to date on the latest trends and opportunities in the space. Having our own champion and a go-to sounding board on industry knowledge in the team at Accelerist has been such a great support for us over the past year, and in addition to everything I mentioned above, that is one of the greatest reasons we’ll be renewing our relationship with them in 2020.