In her presentation “Practical advice for growing nonprofits’ corporate revenue” at IEG 2016, Noreen Major, associate director of development with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, shared tips and tactics on securing and retaining corporate partners.

Below are edited excerpts from her presentation.

Know what sets you apart. Before soliciting any companies, properties must have a good understanding of similarly-sized organizations and those that serve the same patron base. How are you alike? How are you different? Everyone is a special snowflake. What sets you apart?

STC offers the only education programs in the area that teach Shakespeare from the ages of three to eighteen. That’s an invaluable gift as Shakespeare is the only author taught in every single school system in the nation.

Do the necessary research. People ask me all the time ‘Where is there a list of available corporate grants? Where is all the money listed?’ Simply put, it doesn’t exist.

You have to get creative. I keep a list of 25 corporations that don’t currently support us next to my computer. The list includes each company’s CEO, head of government relations, public affairs, director of marketing and their core philanthropic focus. I like to keep them present in my mind should an opportunity come my way.

Attend networking events. I attend corporate networking events not only for networking, but to hear what’s important to potential partners. What’s important to the C-suite, marketing manager, new associates and prospective employees who might be attracted to a company’s philanthropic activities. You have to be a servant to many masters.

For those who don’t have a budget to attend those events, we work out in-kind relationships with local chambers and businesses. They can use tickets, marketing and other assets we provide to promote their own business or use as raffle items. In return, we attend the networking events at no cost.

Use Google alerts. Google alerts are your friend. I use them to learn about prospects and current partners. You’d be amazed what you can learn—I’ve used them to learn about quietly-announced mergers, CEO shifts and other new developments.

Monitor employee movement. I routinely search government relations and corporate governance jobs on and public affairs jobs blogs. New people often take new approaches, which can open the door to funding consideration.

Leverage your inner circle to cultivate prospects. People often say ‘My board doesn’t know anyone’ or ‘My board won’t fundraise.” The bottom line is, everyone knows somebody. I don’t rely on my board to fundraise for me. I research what’s out there, and I routinely update them with that information.

I meet our board members individually at least once a year to go over our programs as a refresh. A lot of times that will jog their memory about a neighbor who works at a bank or a college friend who has an interest in arts education. If your board is a challenge don’t give up on them. Work with them.

Think long, think wrong. Before I do any cold calling or cold emailing, I think about it from the sponsors’ prospective. How many emails do they receive in a day? How many proposals have they received with another company’s name?

The saying in our office is ‘think long, thing wrong,” To me, it means being concise as possible. I don’t send epic emails. It’s a simple, brief inquiry, whether it’s an invitation to a show or a request for sponsorship requirements. Don’t bury them with information, and don’t promise things you can’t deliver.

Keep them on the list—even if they turn you down. I’m up against a really tricky word: Shakespeare. People hear Shakespeare and their brain goes off—maybe it involved a bad movie or a Hamlet production in high school. It’s an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ situation. People find it off-putting; it’s not for them.

We’re so much more than Shakespeare, and it’s my job to inform potential sponsors about exciting programs and projects going on that they might find of interest.

I invite refusers to things regularly, but not too regularly—I don’t want to become noise. I want them to at least glance at my emails. And I don’t send them through WordFly or Constant Contact. I send things personally and encourage them to give us a try. It always works at some point. Even if it doesn’t pay off with financial support, they’re aware of us and the experience we can provide.

The same goes for sponsors that drop us. I don’t end all communication. Goals change and objectives change. I would rather be a positive presence rather than a fading memory.

Make things special. We do everything we can to make things special for our corporate partners. That includes using our unique resources such as bringing costumes to sponsor events, as well as having actors and directors speak. Those kinds of VIP touches don’t cost anything but help create an unforgettable experience.

Ask for the money. This seems obvious, but it’s sometimes forgotten. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Go into a meeting, do your research and establish a basement and a ceiling. Or ask them to establish it. A direct ask with a price tag.

How to get an answer. Waiting for a yes or a no is the hardest game. I try to keep in mind that I am not the priority. I try to wait a decent amount of time between communications and have a legitimate reason for following up. If it’s one thing cyberspace can do is make a lie obvious. Don’t badger and don’t lie.

Help protect sponsors’ brands.  My first job is to raise funds so STC has the resources it needs. My second job is to protect the brands of my corporate sponsors. This task is not without its challenges: We’re an organization with over 200 people with varied knowledge of development and philanthropy, as well as its importance.

But it’s not up to them to do my job. As a result, we created a credit memo: an internal document the entire staff has access to, and they are expected to reference it when creating marketing and educational materials. It answers questions about logo usage, sponsorship language, and sponsorship benefits. Anyone from the box office to PR can open up the memo to see what the protocol should be.