I was recently reminiscing with a friend about a campaign we worked on back in 2006. The program was focused on getting backpacks and school supplies to New York City's homeless children. I still remember the line in our solicitation letter that said "we hope you’ll consider being a good corporate citizen and supporting our program with a sponsorship". That sponsorship world has changed dramatically since I wrote that hopeful letter.
The days of companies simply wanting to be "good corporate citizens" are long gone. They've been replaced by strategic and value oriented partnerships with charities. Today's nonprofits need to articulate what they can offer a corporate sponsor that can help them grow their business, raise their profile in their industry and community AND help them do good. Organizations that can answer these three questions are the likely winners when it comes to securing sponsors:
What is your organization's Brand and Delivery Promise? Your organization needs to say what you intend to do and what you've actually done. If there's a gap, how are you narrowing it? If your organization's mission is to reduce gang violence by 25% and you've helped reduce it by 15%, how is that other 10% going to happen? What are the alternatives if that doesn't happen the way you planned? Remember back in the early 80's when Domino's promised 30 minute pizza delivery? They backed it up with a guarantee of free pizza if they didn't deliver on that promise. While the charitable community is tackling much bigger problems than late-night munchies, we need to demonstrate the same levels of accountability.
What makes your organization unique? Chances are, there's a charitable organization that does something similar to what you do. They could be wooing your prospective sponsor as you read this (yikes!) What makes your organization utterly one-of-a-kind? Is it knowledge, research, program, staff, leadership or something else entirely? Be able to share it quickly and clearly. And...
How Can Your Nonprofit Help A Sponsor Grow Their Business? All of the above matters if and only if, you can connect your mission based work with an opportunity to help your sponsor increase their visibility, and engage customers more deeply with their brand. Take the time to understand your prospective sponsor's business objectives and create a platform that addresses them in ways they can't themselves. For example, a granola bar company can talk about and even advertise their intention to educate the next generation about healthy food choices and exercise. That message is reinforced in a truly authentic way when they sponsor a charity running program for teens with both cash and in-kind donations of their product. Partnerships where both the charity and the sponsor move closer to their mission is the ultimate goal.
These are the questions that we, as nonprofits, need to be answering to ensure the future of our work and truly value oriented sponsorships. If I can help you and your charity to connect and secure more sponsorships, let me know. You can reach me at 917-733-8569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Night Shyamalan's new movie “Glass” had me re-watching and re-discovering the depth of it’s prequel “Unbreakable”. One of the prevailing themes I find compelling is that of finding our place in the world. Since this isn’t a movie review and I don’t want to be a spoiler, I’ll simply share that one of the most poignant lines in the movie from one of the main characters is as follows:
“Now I know my place in the world - I’m not a mistake.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all could say that for about our work? I feel incredibly grateful that these days I feel very much that way. I note this as I seem to find myself in similar conversations with nonprofit leaders around essential “out of the gate actions.” My gratitude comes from working with several of these leaders and seeing the positive impact of implementing these steps. Interestingly, these conversations often have different start points - maybe you’ve said or at least felt this way:
Any of them sound familiar? From my perspective - and having the privilege of working with newer nonprofits - these challenges reflect the growing pains that come from moving from infancy to the growth stage of a nonprofit. When I hear some or all of the above, I recommend the following:
I hope the above is helpful. At minimum, you might be enticed to watch “Glass” now that it’s on video. If I can help you and your nonprofit, please reach out at email@example.com
I recently had a conversation with an organization that had a good laugh when I described fundraising as the positive side of a pyramid scheme. And I do believe that. In fact, in the nonprofit fundraising world, a campaign structure looks like a pyramid. Well, if I were an absolute optimist, it would be an upside-down pyramid with lots of top dollar donors and then just a few at the entry level.
But back to reality. As many know, the pyramid is built around a top gift, followed by one, two or three substantial but slightly lower (but no less significant) gifts, five to six more etc. But take it a step further and that pyramid in a more live form includes more than gifts - it includes action: Donors telling two friends about their gift, who tell two friends about their gift and so on. Wow - sounds a bit like Amway but without the paper towels, baby food etc - right?
Anyway, this approach was around and worked way before "crowdfunding" and "social media" were part of the fundraisers vernacular. With the emphasis on getting the word out on as many channels as possible, I thought it might be worth considering some of the key features of the pyramid and what makes for the strongest structure:
The Bricks: Do you truly know the donors that make up your pyramid? Who are they? Do you have some really solid bricks that create the foundation. Do you have a few more that still need some time to become a core part of the structure or even the top? Do you have an A list, a B list and a C list and a plan that consistently keeps donors and prospects moving up the ladder?
The Mortar: What's the stuff (glue, cement - choose your metaphor) that keeps it all in place? In other words, what's your short, medium and long-term plan that encourages your structure to grow in its entirety - not just the bottom foundation, the middle or even the top. All need to consistently grow and move forward.
The Builders: How happy, excited and strong are your builders? The Bricks and Mortar aren't going to get together on their own. You need a great team of builders - volunteers, of course - that are committed to seeing all this work together. Are you and your organization doing all the right things to keep your builders excited, informed and challenged? Your structure will only be as strong as your builders are committed.
Hope you had some fun looking at the positive side of a pyramid game! If you need help identifying your Bricks, Mortars and Builder, let me know. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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