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Posts Tagged ‘corporate sponsor’

Save the Endangered Corporate Sponsor!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Imagine for a moment that your annual office holiday party was in the same restaurant each year.  In exchange for this promotion, patronage, signage & acknowledgment during the event, food was free and there was a cash bar.

Now, after many years of having this relationship, suppose that, as the restaurant owner, I have decided to change the terms of the agreement.  This year, I’ve decided I want instead:

•     All attendees at the party to wear my restaurant logo t-shirt
•     All attendees to make their own creative “Why I love the restaurant” slogan design on their t-shirt, prior to the party
•   A contest for the best designed t-shirt.  Participants need to post photos of their t-shirts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, etc, with my restaurant name during the three weeks prior to the party.
•     A three drink minimum for guests at the party
•     The chance to go through each guest’s wallet or purse as they enter
•   I’ll announce the t-shirt winners at the party and pay for their meals.  I’m no longer paying for everyone’s food – just the top five t-shirt designers.

If you were in charge of arranging the office holiday party, what would your reaction be?  Would you capitulate . . . or find another sponsor?  This seems like a lot of extra hoops to jump through – for a lot less in return, doesn’t it?

Yet, I speak to so many nonprofit development officers on a regular basis who have signed up for similar deals.  The chance to have a chance at something!  Does it have to do with the mission of the organization?  Nothing whatsoever.  Does it ask your constituents to engage in repetitive – and meaningless – activity?  Absolutely.  And who comes out ahead?  The so-called “sponsor.”

The reason I mention “going through the wallet or purse” in my analogy is to emphasize that you’re not just wasting your supporters’ time (and spending social capital on frivolity), but all of these social media campaigns obtain permission online to get followers’ personal and private data.  This doesn’t just include such things as DOB, gender, etc., but most often pulls all of their friends’ information, too.  It is essentially going through their wallet.  Many are unaware of how much data they’re handing over when they click [I agree], but not all.

What’s more damaging beyond using your supporters to further the agenda of some unrelated corporate mission, however, is that with every one of these campaigns that nonprofits engage in, we are essentially telling corporations – encouraging them – to continue doing business with us this way in the future.

The more we fight like dozens of dogs in a pit over the same, single piece of meat, the less likely corporations will be in the future to stick to the previous model of sponsoring a single event – either as the lead sponsor, or one of several, for a nonprofit.  Why should they bother?

Consider the future of sponsorship overall – both local, regional and national – when you contemplat engaging in one of these contests.  The more you validate them, the more likely they are to become the single representation of what corporate sponsorship means in the future . . . and wouldn’t that be sad indeed?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Conduct A Successful Staff Campaign?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Managing a successful workplace campaign means giving people an opportunity to become engaged in multiple ways with your nonprofit, ranging from quietly turning in their envelope, giving online or attending various events.

First, don’t assume that all employees know everything about your organization, its mission, etc.  As with any other population, your organization has a variety of people in a state of flux:  some people have been working there since the beginning of time, and probably know more than you do, while others are somewhere in the middle, and still others might have just started working there just last month.  Have a variety of activities and appeals so that each set can feel engaged.

For the veterans, probably the initial mention that “It’s staff giving time” during your opening campaign staff meeting will be sufficient; however, reminders are always important to help busy people, so an email or two can boost your participation rate with these people.

The residents on the other hand, have lived in “the neighborhood” for a while at least, and heard this appeal at least a few times now.  You’ll have to make some effort to break through the clutter of the past to make an impact – particularly if you are going to increase the participation rate, not to mention the average gift.

When appealing to the newbies, this is your first chance to introduce them to the campaign, so tell the story right!  Why should they give to the staff campaign, anyway?  While you know it’s important to have a high rate of participation to apply for additional funding, your opening pitch should always focus on the mission of your organization, as it would with any other population.  (What will this gift accomplish?)

It’s tempting, when there are so many campaigns to focus on, to give little effort to the staff campaign and just move on to everything else, but getting staff on board can serve to increase your overall number of ambassadors significantly.  Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth . . . positive or negative.

Give your workplace campaign the same importance as any other, and go the extra mile – solicit a corporate sponsor that might cover the cost of a special staff outing, meal or event.  If this time isn’t feasible, consider soliciting a variety of prizes to be awarded throughout the campaign.

Even small nonprofits with limited staff and budgets have implemented this strategy to bolster morale during their workplace campaigns.

Noreen* was able to give away incentives specific to her office, with management buy-in, such as having heads of departments available to work for other employees for a day, doing their jobs, such as filing, data entry, answering phones, delivering mail, etc.

That was a real morale booster!” Noreen recounts, “But other prizes were popular, too, such as an extra vacation day, or a free executive parking space.  Most importantly, it got more people engaged and excited, talking about who might win the prizes.  Ultimately, our giving and participation went up, too – but the campaign wasn’t seen with the drudgery it had been in the past, simply because of these prizes . . . and, I think, management doing things such as filing and working reception!”

While you want to have enough visibility & events so that everyone can participate, take care to have the means to protect people’s anonymity, as well as see to it that you don’t make anyone feel pressured or shamed into giving.

Some people’s past experiences with staff giving are very negative, leaving them feeling resentful, because – either at their current or previous workplace – they witnessed supervisors directly or indirectly pressuring employees into donating to “the cause.”

Each person’s financial situation is different, and nonprofit employees in particular often don’t make a great deal of money, so creating a festive environment that focuses on your mission and overall (dollar) goal is a better strategy, versus lamenting how your participation goal is still lacking.

Owen* recounts how his mother deposited an empty envelope into the church collection plate every week, so that nobody would think poorly of her, lest she pass the plate without “donating.”

In fact, his mother gave quite generously to their church, by writing one large check per year.  She worried, though, that not being perceived by the congregation as giving on a regular basis could possibly negatively affect her social standing, or make her the target of speculation or gossip.  She felt it was worth the effort to give the impression with the weekly empty envelopes.  Owen still chuckles about this childhood memory today.

As with any other campaign, it’s essential to thank your donors when it’s over.  Make sure to report on the results to everyone (donating or not – prepare for next year!), and translate the overall figures into something meaningful:  “With the $XX,000 we raised, we were able to serve an additional Y,000 hot meals to Z00 homebound individuals!”

Photos and/or video of recent accomplishments are also very impactful, and remember to utilize your social media channels when delivering these messages.  (Make it easy for your new ambassadors to hit the [share] button!)

Finally, track not only your financial successes, but your personal successes.  Which staff members became more engaged or responded the most positively?  You’ll want to explore recruiting them for your campaign committee next year, but don’t wait nine or ten months to do it – ask them now about their interest and ideas.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Monday, 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

The Right Corporate Sponsor Can Be Beneficial

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Bringing on corporate sponsors in new and creative ways is being suggested more frequently these days, as non profits are experiencing budget shortfalls that they haven’t seen before.  While we all want to have fiscal support, it is important to keep in mind several factors before deciding to enter into a partnership with a company:

Is the company a good fit with your organization?  Does the corporation represent a product/mission related to what your organization stands for, or is trying to accomplish?

Is the campaign itself mission-related?  You have X points of contact per year with your constituents.  If/when you ask them to act on your behalf, it’s important that you make it count – related to your organization, meaningful to your mission.

Too often, companies attempt to portray themselves as philanthropic simply by throwing (usually relatively little) funds in the direction of charities, yet the non profits are required to do the lion’s share of the work, retain very little of the profit . . . and often, hand over their constituents’ contact list that they have worked for years to cultivate as well.

This only seems like a good deal to cash-strapped organizations who feel they have little alternative but to agree to nearly any terms for the extra income, but it is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

It is better to cultivate your donors with consistent messaging about why they should support your mission of ending illiteracy, feeding the homeless, combating domestic violence, etc., instead of asking them to switch long distance carriers or click on your website’s Amazon button, and so forth, so that you can earn Y% of that purchase.

Some examples of corporate partnerships gone sour:

Chase Community Giving Contest – One of the largest social media contests, which awarded over $1,000,000 in prizes to non profits; however, it was riddled with scandal.  In order to vote on Facebook, you had to offer all of your contacts’ data.  Many questionable/counterfeit users were created and voted, tainting results.  In addition, several finalist organizations were eliminated during the last days, due to Chase’s not wanting to be associated with their missions.

Public schools have been experiencing this desperation far longer than typical non profits.  Although the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood successfully won a several year battle against BusRadio, they are now tackling a pitch to air television on school buses.  CCFC also reports on public schools that allow churches to preach, and gun shop owners and fast food companies to market to school families in exchange for various sponsorships.  This phenomenon was even highlighted – and mocked – years ago by a then popular tv show.  Most parties agree that children shouldn’t be bombarded, but others feel that what is happening in schools is an indicator of a trend of things to come in other areas of society.

When the donation becomes transactional and the transaction is gone, so is the donation.  While working at PBS, I witnessed a transformation in the average gift during pledge drive:  It climbed from the high double digits to triple digits while Suze Orman specials were on the air, due to her premiums being pitched.  Donors gave higher gift amounts not out of loyalty to public broadcasting, but because they wanted the Suze Orman DVD or CD that was being emphasized.  A few years later, Suze signed with QVC and left PBS.  When she did, the average pledge once again dropped below $100.  The correlation was undeniable.  People were selling Suze merchandise on the air, rather than the mission of public broadcasting and loyalty to PBS, and it cost us dearly.

Of course there are ways to strike a balance and enter into corporate partnerships that benefit both parties, but it is always important to keep your long term goals and big picture in mind:  What does your organization stand for, and how do you want it represented?

There are also new definitions of Social Business being created.  Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and author of Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, looks at ways businesses can better serve society and operate neither at a loss nor a profit, but reinvest profits back into the company.  Monday, June 28th is Social Business Day.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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