How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.William Shakespeare
When I was working in marketing firms representing large corporate brands, nonprofit fundraisers routinely pitched me for funds. As the gatekeeper for various brands whose products or services were directed at women, I was both an advocate for my clients as well as a coach for the nonprofits that approached us. The following advice reflects my experience in the private sector as well as my current role as a dedicated adviser to nonprofits that want to attract corporate funding.
What Gives? Figure out their Why: Very few corporate funders give without some instrumental purpose that accrues benefits to their firms. Here are just a few of the reasons corporations give to nonprofits:
- Make a difference
- Tax benefits
- Alignment advantages
- Do well by doing good
- Employee engagement and morale
- Made to do it (e.g., tobacco industry)
- Personal relationships with a nonprofit or a leader’s affinity for the cause
- Government strategy
- Improve corporate reputation because of negative media coverage.
Given those reasons, the paradigm for cultivating, securing and stewardship corporate funders has changed in myriad ways over the past two decades, and certainly over the past 18 months. Corporations with staff dedicated solely to making decisions about philanthropy are rare. For the most part, positions such as foundation director, philanthropy relations officer, community liaison, diversity and inclusion officer, or social responsibility manager are positions held by individuals whose major duties are to protect the organization from legislative action or bad press, or to generate a profit. Among them: chief legal counsel, H.R. director, community development liaison, chief marketing officer, and senior brand manager, to name just a few.
A few tips when pursuing an opportunity for corporate funding:
- Research the corporation’s media coverage; is there a negative issue it’s attempting to resolve or defuse by partnering with your nonprofit? In today’s media environment, it is very easy to delve into a corporation’s image. Conversely, it is just as easy to delve into that of your organization – for better or for worse.
- Determine whether there is true alignment with your organization’s mission, vision, and values, or whether the corporation’s sole motive is that it has a brand to promote, protect, or defend.
- Ascertain whether a cause-related marketing campaign distracts your staff from other essential priorities. Risk/benefit analyses I routinely do with my clients identify such red flags early on.
- Clearly define expectations for all partners, in writing. While this seems obvious, sins of omission are committed on both sides; I know, I’ve been there.
- Consult your board for advice and counsel on corporate partnerships, especially re: stewardship and how your organization’s mission, vision, and values can be presented in the best light to the corporation’s stakeholders – employees, investors, partners, future funders, etc.
And, most important: Your “why” is just as important as any partner’s why. Be sure the light beamed on you is a positive one.
©Liz DiMarco Weinmann, B.E.A.M.-Impact Generator©