Recruiting Corporate Partners with a Small Team: The Edge This Nonprofit Has That You Don't [SPONSORED]


For nearly two decades Operation Warm has had a simple mission: to provide children in need with the gift of brand new winter coats. The nonprofit works directly with manufacturers to create their own line of warm, colorful winter coats made just for kids.

Since 1998, Operation Warm has provided coats to over 2 million children across the United States.

Traditional grants from companies have played a major role in helping Operation Warm achieve its mission. However, after an uptick in company requests for sponsorship and cause marketing in 2016, Operation Warm created a dedicated team to focus on corporate partnerships.

With a growing national brand, and solid organizational footprints in Philadelphia and Chicago, Operation Warm turned their attention towards expanding regional and national corporate relationships.

“We knew we were ready to take our engagement with companies to the next level,” said Grace Sica, who joined the organization in 2016 to lead the corporate partnership effort. “But we were very conscious of doing it right. It was too important of an effort to do it any other way.”

“Doing it right” meant that even with two employees to spearhead the charge, Operation Warm still needed partnership expertise and business insights. They found both in Catalist.

Grace Sica, Operation Warm

Grace Sica, Operation Warm

“The Catalist database of companies has been incredibly useful,” said Sica. “But working with Catalist is so much more than having access to a database. The Catalist team helps us understand and interpret the data. Honestly, they’ve helped build our program from the ground up.”

A major challenge for Operation Warm was putting the right valuation on its coat-giving events. Catalist helped Operation Warm to build an employee volunteer program where 50 company employees can personally interact with low-income children and give new coats to every child in a school.

“Almost all of our corporate partnerships involve some kind of event component,” explained Sica. “Catalist helped us understand the value of these events to companies and how to price them accordingly.”

“I can’t emphasize how methodical and helpful Catalist was in answering the questions that no one else could answer,” she added . “Catalist gave us the confidence we needed to talk to companies, especially when it came to asking for money.”

Another factor that motivated Operation Warm to work with Catalist was its pricing structure.

Podcast Quotes (4).png

“The other cause marketing agencies we researched were charging a lot, essentially the salary of another full-time employee, to work with us,” said Sica. “Operation Warm had just invested in two full-time employees. We couldn’t justify spending that much more.”

Fortunately, Catalist offers a sliding payment scale for nonprofits that’s based on total revenues. In short, larger nonprofits pay more while smaller nonprofits pay less. But every client gets access to the same great tools and insights.

In the case of Operation Warm, they invested in Catalist’s Asset Valuation and Psychographic Valuation tools, providing much-needed data on Operation Warm’s marketplace strengths and core audience acumen. “Both of these tools deliver incredible insights,” said Sica. “But having the Catalist team there to interpret the results made the findings even more relevant to our outreach efforts.”

“We’ve made a lot of progress with corporate partners in a short amount of time,” expresssed Sica. “We couldn’t have done it without Catalist.”

Key Takeaways

  • With the right insights, even small teams can succeed with cause marketing.
  • Buying software is just part of the solution. Small teams need experienced cause marketers who can help them interpret results and assign the right valuation to assets.

Catalist_logo-01 (2).png

This post is sponsored by Catalist. Catalist uses smart technology, insightful data and industry expertise to match companies with causes in partnerships that accelerate social change. Learn more about Catalist here.