On a recent plane ride, my seat mate and I exchanged polite conversation about our careers. As often happens when someone learns I am a cause marketer, my new friend immediately started passionately sharing information about his pet nonprofit, a tropics-based environmental program focused on helping local farmers enhance their farming methods. When he further understood that I assisted nonprofit and corporate partnerships, he asked me THE question. THE question I most frequently hear from nonprofit volunteers, and sometimes nonprofit staff, is “how do I get so-and-so to give us money?”
So, I thought this conversation might provide an interesting opportunity to discuss some common corporate funding myths.
Myth One: “Well-Known” companies should support “my” mission. I often find that nonprofit volunteers or staff believe that companies that enjoy a high level of consumer awareness should automatically be interested in their cause. Frequently, this myth is especially strong if the nonprofit is located in the same city or area as the company’s headquarters. In the case of my seat mate, he lived in Seattle, so he was certain that Microsoft would want to support his mission.
- Myth Buster: Corporate partners often need to have business-related interests related to the work of charities they fund.
First, I asked my friend what business tie he felt Microsoft might have with his mission of environmentally-friendly farming skills. After much thought, he said that he didn’t see a business tie, but that Microsoft has lots of money so they should support his mission. (Note: This myth is quite common and so I will address it in greater depth in my next installment of “Asking for Support.”)
This response gave me the opportunity to teach my new friend about the difference between cause funding and Corporate Foundation funding. The best cause prospect is a corporation with obvious business ties to the nonprofit’s mission or target audience. I explained how this lack of business tie means that the only feasible support would come from the Foundation side. I explained how to research giving guidelines and grant cycles. I strongly urge all funding seekers to spend time gathering this information when developing their prospect list.
- Myth Buster: In addition to common business-related interests, corporations must also have a common “geographic footprint” match with their charity partners.
Cause marketing partnerships will be most appealing to a corporation if there is a match with their business footprint. This means a company that markets nationwide, will want a nonprofit partner that has national outreach too. If a company is regionally or locally based, their ideal nonprofit partner will serve their territory. If the partner target is a national company but the nonprofit is based in a particular city, then the nonprofit should approach the store-level contact vs. the national marketing office. In addition to a marketing footprint, sometimes a corporation will be interested in supporting charities in areas where they have a large manufacturing plant or employee base. The bottom line for nonprofit prospecting is that there should be a geographic tie to the business of the prospective corporate sponsor.
So, in summary, the more business ties a company has to the nonprofit’s misson and the more closely they match in geographic distribution, the higher a company should be ranked on the nonprofit’s prospect list. Let’s face it, we all have limited time and resources. Developing a ranking system for corporate prospecting will result in higher capture rates, more efficient funding outreach and less wear and tear on the psyche of the volunteer and staff fundraiser!
In Part 2 of this “Asking for Support” series, I will address the common Corporate funding myth: All “Well-Known” companies have deep pockets.
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