Lock a few bright, energetic folks in a room, with instructions to devise a strategy for raising money for a charity, and odds are pretty high that they will create a special event, and a short list of potential corporate sponsors.
In addition to events being among the least efficient ways to raise money, seasoned development professionals know that, nationally, corporate giving accounts for about 5% of total charitable contributions (and actually fell last year by over 3%). Given that, why do we continue to invest time and energy engaging the corporate community? Why bother?
It’s easy to understand the origins of all the confusion. As good charitable organizations, we tend to do a pretty good job recognizing our donors. For many businesses, that recognition comes in the form of the visibility resulting from their event sponsorship. Businesses need a business reason to give away pay raises, reinvestment in plant and equipment, margin, and dividends. Acknowledgement of their good corporate citizenship and community reinvestment is the least we can do. Those on the outside may be more likely to see evidence of a $5,000 golf sponsorship than a $50,000 gift made quietly by a private individual.
But, again, if the level of support we need is far more likely to come from individuals, why do we pay so much attention to the corporate sector? Let’s take just a moment to consider two reasons.
The visible endorsement of our communities’ leading corporate citizens sends a compelling message to the rest of our constituents. A donor list that includes my bank, utility, home builder, car dealer, or physician gets my attention. These are organizations I know. I reasonably presume that they have carefully considered their decision to support a given charity. When reinforced by the endorsement of others, I am far more likely to pay attention to the mission and work of the benefitting charity, and perhaps feel a bit differently about my own support.
A quick look around most boardroom tables reveals volunteer leadership that tends to come from that same corporate community. Local business people understand economic development, infrastructure, and quality of life. They know that the not-for-profit sector – health, education, the arts, and social services – is an important thread in the fabric of community. Lending their time and talent to volunteer leadership is a valuable investment.
Leadership and endorsement. Two pretty good reasons in my book. Engage your corporate community. Really. It’s no bother.
T. Christian Rollins, MBA, CFRE
Join Pride Philanthropy for our July 24 online training session, Taking Care of Business: Engaging Our Corporate Community. Click on this link to learn more.