Case Study: Potomac Conservancy
Potomac Conservancy Partners with Ford
From 2002 to 2005, the Potomac Conservancy and the Potomac Watershed Partnership have partnered with Ford to improve the water quality of the Potomac River and its tributaries. Thanks to Ford's premiere sponsorship of Growing Native, a quarter of a million volunteers have learned about the important connection between healthy, forested lands and clean water, and have collected enough native hardwood tree seed to plant 44,000 acres of forest.
The Potomac Conservancy pursued Ford's sponsorship because the Growing Native program seemed a natural tie in to the corporation's Environment and Community Good Works principles. For the Potomac Conservancy, partnering with a corporation offered an attractive opportunity to secure funding for general support, while also receiving assistance with its public relations effort to comprehensively brand its Growing Native program. From Ford's perspective, being associated with a signature conservation program would improve brand loyalty.
This partnership has been a grand success; the broad reach and impact of Growing Native would not have been possible without Ford's contribution of $130,000. In addition to Ford's generous donation of money, it provided public relations assistance. Ford assisted Potomac Conservancy make a connection that landed Ford's Growing Native seed collection event on Fox-5 television. It marketed Growing Native at some of its local dealerships. Employees also donated their time. In three of the four years, more than 20 Ford employees joined the Potomac Conservancy for a public event. They collected hundreds of pounds of native seed to contribute toward the program.
Despite the benefits of this partnership, it was difficult at times. Perhaps the greatest challenge was realizing that some of the sponsorship benefits the Potomac Conservancy had promised Ford took much more time and money to execute than anticipated. In addition, involving Ford staff in volunteering to the full extent that they desired was not easy. This was due to problems maintaining timely communication and planning of seed collection events given the unreliability of weather. Finally, the full amount of public relations assistance that Potomac Conservancy hoped to receive from Ford never materialized due to understaffing at the corporation.
In seeking corporate sponsorship, Potomac Conservancy's best advice to other nonprofits is to reach a comprehensive understanding of each party's role in advance of embarking on the partnership. Organizations should take great care in assessing the resources that will be involved in delivering sponsorship benefits so that they do not over-promise. Finally, both parties should communicate on as frequent a basis as possible. Taking these thoughts into consideration will greatly improve the chance that the partnership will be successful for both parties. And such success can often lead to an extension or renewal of the relationship and its associated benefits, which are sure to grow stronger with time.
For additional information, visit the Growing Native Web site (www.growingnative.org).