What You Need To Know To Elevate Your Higher Education’s Prospecting Strategy!
Many higher education institutions are leaning into corporate philanthropy and partnerships as a way to diversify their development revenue and become an even bigger player within their capital campaign. We think they are super smart to do so! Corporate support of social issues continues to grow despite the struggles we all faced in 2020.
Did you know that corporate giving accounted for nearly 2/3 of COVID-19 philanthropic funding at nearly $7.9 billion? (Source: Philanthropy And COVID-19 In The First Half Of 2020)
Even more encouraging is that 68% of companies have funded new nonprofits this year, while 60% of them are looking for new social issues to support in their new fiscal year. (Source: COVID-19 Impact on CSR, Rocket Social Impact, ACCP – May 2020).
Corporate revenue can be a great resource to supplement funds for the Education industry (which saw a decline in more traditional funding sources last year):
- A quarter of college fundraisers said gift revenue dropped by more than 30 percent in the last half of 2020, compared with that period in 2019.
- Revenue from new contributions and pledges declined by a median of roughly 9 percent, but the overall landscape of college giving was uneven.
- By the end of the 2020 calendar year, roughly 65 percent of colleges had raised less than they had the previous year.
Perhaps this is why we are bombarded with questions about how to find right-fit partners in our current environment? While we always love to hear from you, we thought we would share some of our insights on the most popular questions we’ve received about prospecting for higher education (and those that we wish you would’ve asked)!
3 Most Popular Questions About Prospecting
Q: With an Evolving Workforce, How Do I Find the Right Decision-Makers Right Now?
A: We know unemployment rates are starting to settle, but finding and maintaining a relationship with key decision-makers can be a moving target in this environment. We typically recommend you look for decision-makers within the HR, Marketing and Social Responsibility (i.e. CSR, Sustainability, Philanthropy, Corporate Foundation) areas of a company. The opportunities you have available for partnership will help you refine which department to prioritize. In these times, however, try to invite multiple contacts across these departments to join you for a cross-departmental meeting (in case one rep is laid off or leaves). Lean more heavily on your personal or LinkedIn connections to follow decision-makers as they move around within a company or to a new one.
Q: How Do I know If Companies are Right-Fit Right Now?
A: Carve out a part of your week to keeping a finger on the pulse of key industries you’re interested in, any big moves or breakthroughs within the industry, and the major players or new brands on the block. Stay attuned to continued store closures, Chapter 7/11 filings and major layoffs, which typically indicate industries or brands that are not right-fit. Look for other indicators like brands that are announcing new product launches or store openings, new hires, or new impact commitments as opportunities ripe for new partnerships. Check out Accelerist’s Building Partnerships During a Recession Report for details on thriving and declining industries now and during recession.
Q: How Do I Prioritize My Most Urgent Needs With Prospects Right Now?
A: Sometimes it’s difficult to balance a conversation with a prospect between all of the work your nonprofit does, and what it currently needs the most money for right now. Sometimes your urgent needs and their interests don’t directly align naturally. However, in order to create a sense of urgency and relevancy to your most immediate need without sacrificing your grander mission, consider filling in the blank to this “Mad Lib”: “Given that [insert social need stat] is happening right now, you might be wondering how to [insert impact possibility on community]. As a [mission of the organization], [Organization Name] is solving a part of this challenge by [impact statement 1, impact statement 2, impact statement 3]. Other partners like [partner 1, partner 2, partner 3] are joining us to [opportunity 1, opportunity 2, opportunity 3]. Would you like to learn more about how to get involved?
3 Questions You Should Be Asking About Prospecting
Q: What’s our total addressable market (TAM)?
TAM usually refers to the total demand for a product or service that is calculated in annual revenue. In partnership terms, this could mean the total amount of money or prospects that want to donate to your mission, your opportunity or both. In other words, “How Big is the Pond You Can Fish In?” This question can help you identify the underlying potential and opportunity for corporate revenue at your organization.
A: Once you’ve identified which companies give to your cause and like to invest in the opportunities you have to offer, refine even further to by considering your “Ideal Partner Profile” (IPP). To do this, analyze:
- Past wins/losses & pinpoint trends in motivations
- With which companies in this TAM do we share values
- Are there certain industries that we want to focus on
- Giving trends and thresholds of each prospect (i.e. If a company typically only gives $50,000, and your minimum commitment is $250,000 – they are not a good prospect)
- Size/location/employee base
Once you have your IPP defined, it’s now time to determine your lead generation goal. To do this, consider your overall revenue goal for corporate partnerships, the average partnership donation of your current partners and your average conversion rates from pitch to close. This exercise will help you identify the potential size of your prospect pool, and how many/which leads you need to have in order to meet your revenue goals.
Q: How can you increase pitch-to-close conversions?
A: For us, it’s a 1. 2. 3. Punch:
- Define more qualified leads: Establish right-fit, right-decision-maker, and the right time to engage or partner with that company
- Quick & easy outreach: Keep your initial outreach simple and quick. Get to the point in your cover email. Focus on impact, opportunity and your ask – which should always be to hop on a phone call (or Zoom) to discuss more.
- Create and Distribute interesting and unique content that establishes you as an expert. Some examples include blogs, webinars, reports, case studies
Once you have your leads, content and process, don’t forget to track your email open rates, score leads, follow up with those most interested at least three times after the initial outreach.
Q: How can we re-introduce our mission to lost partners or prospects?
A: “89% of B2B marketers say brand awareness is their top goal, not sales.” (Source: Content Marketing Institute). This is because once someone has heard of you and knows what you do, you had a significantly higher chance of converting them to supporting you. With the times changing, your mission evolving and companies considering new social issues and partners to align with, it’s the perfect time to re-connect with partners or prospects that you’ve lost or lost touch with. Start by curating a list of lost partners/prospects over the past 24 months. Then, curate and deploy a “win-back” e-mail marketing campaign over the next 3 weeks, that could look something like this:
1st week – Checking In, Mission Story & Impact Updates, Call to Action = Catch Up Chat
2nd week – Interesting Case Study, Report or Executive letter to all corporate partners, Call to Action = invitation to Get-to-Know Your Org Webinar
3rd week – Webinar reminder, Mission-served Thank You video to all partners, Call to Action = Become a Partner Today (link to your email)
Our world has changed in a lot of different ways over the past 18 months. As we enter the second half of this year and prepare for the next, the way we approach finding and building profit-purpose partnerships must change with the swelling tide. We must get more sophisticated. We must work more efficiently. We must get more strategic on who is right-fit for our organization, and how can we reach them faster and with fewer resources. Those who do will rise above in 2022.
To learn more about Accelerist’s new and improved Prospecting Engine, or just ask us more questions about prospecting – get in touch!