What keeps nonprofits from approaching corporate funders for support? Is there a difference in cultivating relationships with corporate funders vs private foundations and individual donors? What can a nonprofit do to break into this consistent yet, often elusive funding stream?
There have been a variety of great articles and books written about what corporate funders want from their grantees (just google ‘corporate funding for nonprofits’), yet many nonprofits are not making the move and feel intimidated by the challenge. What separates them from the ones that are receiving corporate dollars? The ones that don’t make the move see themselves in a more traditional way, and may have limiting beliefs about their ability to meet a set of corporate funding expectations or about being ‘in bed’ with corporations. Many nonprofits don’t know what it means on the ground to ‘improve a corporations’ business profile, boost its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reputation or increase employee engagement.’ Their focus has been on running and growing programs that help the people and places they serve.
What’s needed is a change in perspective. Instead of a nonprofit seeing its role as limited to being a ‘service provider’, nonprofits need to start seeing themselves as a ‘corporate partner’. A partner that creates a win-win-win relationship that benefits the corporation (win), the nonprofit (win) and those the nonprofit serves (win), or in corporate terms – creating shared value. Many nonprofits hold a set of limiting beliefs that keep them from developing corporate relationships. By shifting over to an empowering set of beliefs, it becomes much easier for a nonprofit to make the move from being a good service provider into the expanded role of being a good corporate partner.
Here are some of the differences in beliefs:
Let’s look at how to address each one:
We are not big/important enough: Contributing to large national programs is not always a requirement for corporate funders and can keep a nonprofit from seeking funding if they believe that is always true. Most corporate funders aim to find ways to build their reputation locally where their employees live and work. They seek to act as responsible community members and attract not only potential clients but also future workforce members. The good news about corporate funders is that they are fairly easy to research given most have their own website and often list their geographical regions, funding priorities and areas of focus. Nonprofits that want to become corporate partners can learn what a corporation’s funding priorities are and where their operations or a significant employee base are and determine if there is a potential organization fit.
Our mission doesn’t matter: A nonprofit’s mission is focused on social good, and most corporations are focused on consumer and shareholder value. At the same time, most corporate CSR programs and Foundations state how they contribute to the mission of the corporation – or may even have their own social mission. Corporate funders are much more focused on outcomes and many can clearly articulate the long and short term behavior or condition change they seek to affect. Nonprofits as corporate partners do best when they can demonstrate clear and measurable outcomes that clearly contribute towards the larger impact that a corporate funder seeks. One way to celebrate outcomes is through GuideStar Platinum, the newest profile level from GuideStar, which allows organizations to push past financial metrics to share their actual progress and results with millions—for free.
Responsive grants are not offered: Many corporate funders clearly state on their website that they don’t accept unsolicited grant proposals. If money is the only type of relationship a nonprofit it seeking, it’s thinking like a service provider. Non-monetary resources and relationships can become the stepping stone for funding down the road. Accept a donation of goods and promote the heck out of the corporation through your own social media channels. Offer to help coordinate volunteers, or offer expertise and research from your field to program officers. Both of these can be of high value to corporations as they typically have limited resources to do that themselves.
National Volunteer Programs are already set: Most corporate funders have a company-wide approach to volunteerism. This may be through a United Way Campaign, or an employee-wide day of service with selected nonprofit partners. Nonprofits that think like service providers often give up in this area, with the assumption that the door is closed. Many corporations have local offices that are always striving to be seen as good corporate citizens at the local level. If your program can help to address local needs that are important to employees, local volunteer opportunities are regularly sought by internal community engagement committees, and volunteer based grants are often available.
Ready to create a win-win-win relationship with corporate funders? Start thinking like a corporate partner today!
Wendy Watson-Hallowell has guided hundreds of individuals, entrepreneurs, and over 750 foundations and nonproﬁt organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. She and her husband launched Belief Works™ in 2015 to teach others how to challenge and change their limiting beliefs to dramatically increase their impact and quality of life. Wendy will be featured on Life Out Loud With Junie Moon on 9/15, sign up here for this free informative show!