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Don’t Sell Yourself Short

September 20th, 2010

While dining recently, I had the chance to see a corporate and non profit partnership in action.  Unlike the previous poor examples I outlined, this one was beneficial to both parties, and didn’t require the non profit to do all the heavy lifting.

When it was time for the check, my Chili’s server (and server-in-training), made a point to tell me and my dining partner about the current opportunity we had to add a donation onto the bill for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  They were excellent representatives, beginning with asking us if we were familiar with St. Jude’s work (and clearly prepared to educate us if we were not).

Since we were, they continued by explaining that we could receive various thank you gifts (key ring, t-shirt) – and that 100% of our gift would go to St. Jude’s.  We were impressed, and made a contribution.  I told them that they could keep the gift(s), but asked that they pose in the t-shirts that were promoting the campaign throughout the restaurant – and show the keyring.  In the background, you can also see the Create A Pepper artwork drawn by children.  (I wasn’t dining with any children, so hadn’t been offered a chili of my own to color.)

As more non profits are seeking new and various sources of funding, it is all too tempting to cut corners and take whatever offers you can get, but it is essential that we remember several basic premises:

•     The partnership must help your organization at least as much as it assists the company (otherwise, it isn’t a partnership . . . and it isn’t philanthropic).
•     If the non profit is doing the majority of the work while the company reaps the majority of the benefit (publicity, income, credit), it’s a bad deal.
•     The company should be a good fit, mission-wise, with the non profit.  Either their service, product, policy and/or politics should align with the organization.

Stacey Goldberg, at IEG Advisory Services, elaborates further on how to find the best corporate sponsor(s):

There are definitely other great examples of current corporate partnerships out there, such as the Minnesota Idea Open, which has sparked many people in Minnesota to learn more about critical societal issues and then submit various ideas on how to improve upon said situations.

Another excellent case in point is one that Southwest Airlines is proud to promote on their blog, regarding their sponsorship of the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) and several students who visited Washington and the White House for the first time in their lives.  The story about these individuals through their director’s eyes is quite compelling.

When one sees fantastic illustrations such as these, it’s all the more reason to take seriously warnings against companies that attach too many strings to their support.  Unfortunately, there are some corporations that have seen the difficult economy as an opportunity to add more marketing conditions to grants.

There is another sector that is promoting the notion that philanthropy is actually beneficial for businesses, however, and it is growing at a steady pace.  Recent research backs this up, particularly for mothers and Millenials, who show the strongest preference to purchase products that support causes that they do, sometimes even to the point of switching brands.

Most important of all, though, is that your organization continue to portray the image that you wish, rather than be viewed as having some type of For Sale sign erected.  Your organization’s brand and image take years to build, and can be easily lost.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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