Nonprofits are giving away valuable assets to corporate partners. Hailey Cavill explains how to avoid doing it ever again, by creating an assets register.

Nonprofits are giving away valuable assets to corporate partners. Hailey Cavill explains how to avoid doing it ever again, by creating an assets register.

You may think that assets belong to the world of stock brokers, real estate agents or supermodels, not the nonprofit sector. Yet many nonprofits have numerous assets which are of immense value to corporate partners but, if they’re not catalogued and valued, how do you know what they are worth? This is where producing an assets register can ensure that you don’t give away your assets too cheaply or, as is more often the case, for nothing!

Corporate partnerships vs. corporate philanthropy

It’s important to first distinguish the difference between corporate philanthropy and corporate partnerships. So that we we’re on the same page, let’s say that corporate philanthropy is when a company or brand donate to a nonprofit and intentionally don’t derive a tangible, commercial return. This is often called a major gift, especially if driven by a single person, like the chief executive officer.

A corporate partnership is when a company or brand partners with a nonprofit in order to achieve objectives for their company as well as for the community. It’s about mutual benefit. Objectives can be corporate social responsibility (CSR), marketing (cause related marketing or cause sponsorship) or human resources (staff engagement). Either way, there is a deliberate intent to obtain a commercial return – it’s an investment, not a donation.

When you are presenting a cause to these companies, they will often ask what you can offer them in return for their investment. This is where you can come unstuck if you don’t have as assets register to refer to.

What is an assets register?

An assets register is a detailed list of everything that you have to offer a corporate partner, valued by an independent media buyer. The fact is, nothing on the planet has a fixed value, everything is negotiable and a market sets the value.

Free markets mean that value changes frequently, but at least if you have an independent valuation of your assets you have a good baseline to kick off negotiations. In the midst of fast and furious negotiations with a corporate partner, it will ensure you don’t give away all your assets for a song and regret it later.

Assets register items can be broken up into seven categories:

People and relationships: Celebrity ambassadors, government contacts or clients. Marketing and fundraising materials: This covers all marketing materials, such as ads, community service announcements, donor newsletters, receipts, coin tins, social media and so on. Events: Ranging from your annual general meeting to your fundraising ball, open day, tour and door knock. Physical things: Buildings, vans, equipment and merchandise. Staff engagement opportunities: Get specific with the types of things you can offer for all levels of a corporate partner – from CEO to office staff. Programs and services: Only detail those that your management will allow to be directly associated with a corporate identity – so your help line, training program and research project. Wish list: It’s worth detailing a list of all the things you’d love to do, if you had the funding. Compiling your assets register

The best way to start compiling an assets register is to organise a think tank with a varied group of people, but no more than 10. People who work in different areas of your organisation will bring different thoughts and contribute uncovered assets.

Create a template with five vertical columns and the headings product, feature, benefit, cost and value. Identify first what the asset (product) is, then after the think tank fill in the detail (feature). Once you have this identified, consider what the tangible benefit to the corporate is (benefit) and the cost of delivering that benefit (not the cost of the entire asset).

You then need to find an experienced media buyer who can fill in the value column. Ideally, search for a media buyer that will do this for you pro-bono (but also turn it around quickly), otherwise the investment will be $1,000-$4,000, depending on the assets register’s size.

While it can take 20-30 hours to compile an assets register, its value will become evident when negotiating with corporates or trying to work out a sponsorship proposal.

Watch out for the traps

One major pitfall is to avoid collapsing the value of your brand into your assets. The assets register is about cataloguing and valuing your tangible assets – there’s a separate process for identifying your brand value. Your brand is most certainly more valuable than any single asset you have, so it deserves a separate price tag!

Another pitfall is trying to place the value on the asset yourself or using someone who is not qualified. The assets register will have far more credibility if it’s valued by an independent and qualified professional.

Hailey Cavill is the director of Cavill + Co (, a company which has created 39 corporate-cause partnerships worth $25 million over 16 years.
The first five readers to contact Cavill + Co (e-mail will receive a free seat at its online assets register training seminar in November, valued at $150 each.