How to choose your partners

As traditional funding streams get squeezed, museums are looking increasingly to diversifying their income streams, working in partnership with other organisations – museums, businesses, charities etc. This can provide more than just a financial income, but the way you choose and develop these partnerships needs to be approached thoughtfully and carefully.

“A good solid partnership is one where there is mutual respect and a benefit for both parties. Understanding is key to a truly successful corporate relationship.” 

Fundraising is the process of soliciting and gathering contributions as money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or government agencies (Wikipedia).


Elements of Corporate Fundraising

Corporate donations 

Depending on the size of the organisation there may be an application process for donations based on specific criteria, so it’s important to do your homework first. You may also be expected to write an evaluation report on the effectiveness of the donation.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

This could include volunteering and pro-bono work e.g. staff with key skills such as marketing or accounts volunteering their time.


As a corporate sponsor, an organisation would be able to take advantage of commercial opportunities such as advertising e.g. charitable sporting events arts exhibitions. This can take the form of cash, match funding, or gifts. It is not the same as a philanthropic donation and the company will expect something in return. This type of partnership involves careful negotiation and it’s important to have a written contract.

Corporate membership

You can offer organisations a membership scheme. This can take various forms e.g. in exchange for a membership fee organisations have access to bespoke behind the scenes events or are able to advertise in your newsletters.

Payroll Giving and employee engagement

Corporate volunteering is a growing area, it helps employees develop skills, builds moral, and connect with their communities.

  • In kind gifts
  • Bespoke partnerships
  • Corporate Events
  • Developing and building relationships

The Fundraising Cycle

It is important to:

  • Understand your organisation from the perspective of the sponsor/donor
  • Have a clear plan and strategy
  • Develop your offer
  • Know your audience
  • Ensure appropriate staff, volunteers and trustees are fully engaged
  • Communicate!


Proper Preparation

As mentioned above, it’s essential that you understand your organisation

What is your vision i.e. what the world will look like after you’ve achieved your goals, what is your mission i.e. what’s wrong with the world and how do you intend to fix it? What are your objectives in seeking this support? There’s a lot of competition out there so how is your organisation positioned e.g. consider what your products are, who your customers are and how much you charge and compare against your competition? What are your organisation’s values?

Develop a strong case for support

Developing a case for support is essential for any form of fundraising, it’s how you tell your story – what’s the big picture, what is the problem that you are trying to fix, and what will happen if you can’t fix it. Think about what is unique about your organisation. Pull together the key facts about who you help, what your project would achieve, what’s your reach.

Research the proposed partner

It’s important to think about your target organisations here – do you share similar values, what is your demographic and is it a group that the business would like to reach, will there be a return on investment and is there a benefit of brand association for the business. Look for recent news articles on them, look at Companies House records, how do they see themselves – what is their branding, are they a socially engaged organisation, are they local or do they have local links?

Have a clear strategy and action plan

Is your organisation ready for a partnership, who will lead on the project, do you have adequate resources to deliver, have you considered all options clearly with the best interests of the museum? What can you offer e.g. pro-bono or CSR, corporate hospitality, access to members, sales, brand association, unique experiences, employee benefits etc. Something that a lot of people forget is to price your project accurately so that you cover all your costs e.g. your time, overheads, legal, cash flow etc… Be realistic and ensure yours and the businesses expectations are managed effectively.

Ensure that there’s a synergy between your organisations

A true partnership must work for both organisations, and it’s important that it helps both organisations to achieve their goals, it is important that this relationship isn’t one sided. Some essential areas are: a written agreement, mutual interest, respect, listen to each other, review and revise, clear communications, trust and sharing information.


Finally, continually monitor and evaluate the partnership. Learn from the successes – and failures to help build stronger and long-term partnerships.

How to choose your partners

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