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Posts Tagged ‘Muhammad Yunus’

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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