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Build a business case to add value and keep sponsors coming back
Submitted by csmith on 2012-06-27T08:02:43
Recently, I was lucky enough to meet up with some friends who are also non-profit fundraisers. Over salads and lunch, we kicked off an interesting conversation about the different things we are doing and our various approaches to development. Someone asked, “What are you doing that is different?” I loved this question because it really makes you think about what makes your organization unique.
What came to the top of my mind, and what I contributed to the conversation, was that i.c.stars relies heavily on corporate funding. This is very different from many non-profits. If you look at the average giving statistics, corporate funding is usually about 5% on average. At i.c.stars, we are upwards of 60% corporate funded. When you start talking to other non-profit professionals about how this works, there is a misconception that the corporate dollars are donated through foundations. Corporate foundations are a percentage of our giving. They are essential to an integrated campaign and are well distributed across all sources of funding. We differ in that we find the business case for companies to sponsor us. We then shift the funds to allow for both corporate foundations and marketing to support our program. We’re making the business case that exists in high level networking opportunities at our events. This enables corporations to meet business objectives.
Say for example you are a workforce development program that focuses on a wide array of industries from hospitality to manufacturing to even technology. You’re placing qualified candidates in entry-level positions at these companies. So what’s the value there? The value is getting the right people in the room that these businesses want to be doing business with. It could potentially help to restructure your event model from an annual event to a smaller event that focuses on a business community. Everyone loves galas, but they’re not always the most effective way to raise money.
Corporations love to support non-profits and community based organizations that their employees feel passionate about. It is important to be able to rally around what we call “third party fundraisers.” You may have volunteers who you know are very committed to your organization. They come in, they’re valuable assistants to you, and they donate to you. They’re also very strategic about getting matching funds from their corporation. You’re going to want to see what interests them about your non-profit so they can then go advocate within their own company. What i.c.stars finds successful is getting in front of some really passionate people who then go back and become advocates in their companies. How do they spread the word? How do they share their stories?
We’re working on new marketing pieces now. They have pull quotes about all of our different stakeholders—from CIOs, to technology service providers, to current interns, to alums, to CBOs—who think of i.cstars in their own light. We will make all those pull quotes come together to form a really cool infographic that shows how you can get involved with us. We have found that often times people want to assist, but they just don’t know how. We make it as easy as being an advocate in your own company by hosting a breakfast where you invite your CEO to come, and there’s an informal presentation about the non-profit.
There are a lot of corporations that are doing fundraising days. For example, I just talked to Softchoice, which is down the street from us. The company hosts a monthly beer cart day where they get all their floors together because they’re spread out like i.c.stars. This gives employees an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and to get to know each other in an informal setting. Softchoice invited Sandee Kastrul to speak about i.c.stars to more than 40 employees who attended. This is a way for the non-profit to easily see the people who are interested in signing up and then working with them to advocate within their own company.
With so many cuts in funding, it is becoming more important for non-profits to push conventional methods and use innovative ways to access dollars. I think finding ways to add business value is the best method to get access to large corporate dollars. What are you doing that is different?