Prospecting for potential partners and customers can be a tall task for an organization. This is especially true for social impact organizations. In today’s World of instant access to information, social issues are becoming more apparent and more people are interested in making a positive impact. Social awareness around these issues are creating a stronger desire for people to act. The problem is that while social impact companies are on the rise, as well as the interest from folks to support their missions, there is still a lack of connectivity between companies who are acting to better society, and companies that want to support.
Trouble of Prospecting: My Perspective
From conversations that I’ve had with many social impact professionals, a common theme that I see is that they struggle to identify the right folks to reach out to. Many social impact organizations need to partner with businesses to improve their operations and ultimately their impact. This is apparent through the work that I did with InnerCity Weightlifting (ICW). Originally, ICW was offering person-to-person workout programs. When I worked with them, they were expanding their business to business (B2B) offerings to bring in a new source of funding and support. I helped them to create a prospecting list and conducted some initial outreach to establish key connections. Because of the success that we had during this time period, ICW realized the importance of B2B outreach, and opened a full time position in response.
Why is it so difficult for these companies to identify key partners? That is because prospecting and outreach is a full time job. Leaders of social impact organizations do not have the time, nor energy to focus on these efforts. Instead, they are focused on their actual work. Additionally, identifying key stakeholders within organizations is a difficult task, in and of itself.
1. “Who is in charge of philanthropy?”
2. “Who is in charge of partnerships?”
3. “Who might utilize our products/services?”
4. “Who would want to help our cause?”
These are a few questions that many social impact organizations consider to be challenges for prospecting.
Tips for Identifying the Key Decision Makers
Luckily, I have loads of experience in identifying key decision makers. In the pursuit of potential partnerships, I find LinkedIn to be the most effective tool. LinkedIn is a place for professionals to connect, and if you are looking to partner with other organizations, you will likely find what you are looking for on this platform. If you are looking to partner with other social impact leaders, you can type “#SocialImpact” or “#SocialEntrepreneur” into the LinkedIn search bar, and scroll through recent posts to identify people who are focused on social impact. It is also wise to narrow your search based on the specific social issue that you and your company addresses. For example, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) company should search hashtags such as “#Diversity”, “#DEI”, “#Inclusion”, and “#DiversityEquityInclusion”.
If you hope to partner with Nonprofits and/or B-Corporations, you can find lists online of all of these organizations in the area you hope to service. For example, this is a list that I found of Certified B-Corps organizations in North Carolina. From there, you can look at the organization’s website to see if they have a staff directory, or you can go on LinkedIn and look at the employees for each organization. If you are unable to access the list of employees on LinkedIn, try a Boolean search for specific positions that may be good to contact in your outreach efforts.
There are also ways to identify key decision makers for partnerships at for profit organizations. First and foremost, it is wise to identify for profit organizations that have philanthropic values. Go to Google and search companies in your area of choice (i.e. Companies in the Charlotte area). From there, do a Boolean search to see which of these companies have philanthropic values and give back to their communities. Once completed, do another Boolean search in LinkedIn to find the key decision makers at each of these companies.
Below is an explanation to best help with your Boolean search.
The Boolean Search
Many of us are likely familiar with a Boolean search. We conducted Boolean searches to find articles for our academic research papers through high school and college. Some of us even use them on a day-to-day basis. For those who are not familiar, I am including below a baseline Boolean search, as well as a couple examples so that you may more easily identify companies to reach out to and the key prospects within each organization.
1. “Company Name” AND (“Philanthropy” OR “Philanthropic” OR “Community” OR “Term 4”)
2. “Company Name” AND (“Title 1” OR “Title 2” OR “Title 3”) AND (“chief” OR “Director”)
1. “InnerCity Weightlifting” AND (“philanthropy” OR “philanthropic” OR “community” OR “social impact” OR “diversity”)
2. “InnerCity Weightlifting” AND (“partnerships” OR “philanthropy” OR “HR” OR “human resources” or “people”) AND (“chief” OR “director” OR “manager”)
#1 in the Baseline and Example, helps to identify if a company has philanthropic values.
#2 identifies potential people to target in your outreach.
There is a lot of research that is involved in identifying potential companies and people to target as a social impact organization. However, this is a very important step in the process for social impact companies to establish relationships with partnering organizations. It is necessary to unleash the full power of sales! First you must identify the companies that you are interested in partnering with. This may require a Boolean search or maybe there is already a list available online for you to use (i.e. list of B-Corporations)! Then, you must identify the key decision makers within the organization who you need to connect with in order to establish these relationships. This will likely require a Boolean search as well. The last and final step that you must complete before conducting outreach, is to create a spreadsheet, or better yet utilize a CRM tool, to track your outreach. Good luck and I wish you happy hunting!