Fund Times

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Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth November 13, 2012

Have you ever considered turning down a donation?  This may seem like a strange question in today’s economy, but knowing the answer may impact your bottom line in more ways than one.


In my first job as a fundraiser, I was introduced to the wonderful world of grantmakers.  Channeling my inner nerd, I would often research the history behind the formation of a philanthropic institution, paying careful attention to the ways in which wealth was accumulated.  I came across foundations who built their endowments through a variety of means; some of which would be viewed as highly unethical these days.   In an era where information is readily accessible (I dare you to google yourself), I wonder how many nonprofits consider the source of  funding prospects?  Turns out The Real News Network (TRNN) does.


TRNN considers themselves to be “…a television news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism.”  To this end, they do not accept government or corporate funding choosing to solely raise money through the individual donations of their viewers.  This mantra is even boldly placed at the top of their website.  Now this may seem like an unimportant detail to most.  But for a donor looking to ensure that their money is given to an organization that will truly advance independent media, this promise may be the sticking point needed for them to write that check for years to come.


So how do you determine the need to vet donations to your nonprofit? Below are a few points to consider:

  • Ethics Outweigh Need: If your organization is committed to promoting a specific ideology (think: marriage equality), then it makes sense to scrutinize funding prospects (despite their tasty sandwiches, approaching Chick-Fil-A is not a good look). Let’s face it, nobody likes a hypocrite.
  • Need Outweighs Ethics: If your nonprofit works to address the physical needs of people (think: homeless shelter), then the beliefs of a potential donor or institution may be less of an issue (you will approach Chick-Fil-A because darn it, people have to eat).
  • It’s All Filthy Lucre: Perhaps the source of donations is simply a non-issue for your organization.  You may find it impossible to fully separate your nonprofit from money gained through the promotion of unfavorable beliefs or unethical business ventures.  All you know is that there are folks in your community that rely on your organization to help them overcome life’s biggest challenges.  To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘The Present’.”


What do you think of vetting donor prospects? Is it worth the investigation?


When For-Profit Met Non-Profit October 11, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a fellow named For-Profit (FP). He was creative, handsome and had tons of money (me-ow).  One day, he was strolling down the street (counting his cash, of course) and bumped into a lovely woman named Non-Profit (NP).  Suffice it to say, it was love at first sight.  Some people gossiped that NP only wanted FP for his loot; others said that he was only with her because he pitied her.  Despite the rumor mill, their love grew and FP asked NP to marry him.  A year later, FP and NP welcomed their first child into the world: Corporate Giving (aka, CG).  As FP and NP gazed down at their son, they knew that CG would add to the fulness of their lives for many years to come…


Silly love story? Perhaps.  But before you judge my fiction-writing abilities, consider the real opportunities that arise when nonprofits partner with for-profits through the latter’s corporate giving programs.


According to Giving USA 2011: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2010, corporate giving rose an estimated 10.6% last year (i.e., $15.29 billion).  In taking a closer look at the data, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy found that 53% of companies gave more in 2010 than in 2007 (before folks began using the phrase “in these tough economic times” to begin every conversation).  Much of this increase is attributed to a variety of factors, including increased corporate mergers and acquisitions, a rise in donations of medical products to uninsured individuals, and a heightened sense of human need in the wake of natural disasters (e.g., the earthquake in Haiti).  While corporate contributions are still small compared to the support received from individuals and foundations, it remains a viable revenue stream for nonprofits to tap into.


So, what are some of the things that your nonprofit should consider in pursuing corporate support?  Check out my top three tips below:

  • Match Mission.  When researching corporate support, the process is similar to that of foundations.  You want to make sure that your nonprofit’s mission aligns with the goals and strategies of your corporate prospects.  For example, if your organization provides back-to-school supplies to urban youth, you might consider approaching the Staples Foundation in soliciting either cash or in-kind donations (e.g., folders, pens, etc.) for your program.
  • Emphasize Partnering.  In my experience, I have found that soliciting support from corporations is a much easier sell than that of foundations.  While any giving program is designed to address a social need, with foundations the funding pitch begins and ends with a nonprofit promising to partner with grantmakers to advance their shared charitable goals.  However, with corporations, nonprofits can emphasize how the corporate gift will not only advance charitable goals, but increase the company’s bottom line.  A perfect example is Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Synonymous with the fight against breast cancer, the partnership between Komen and their corporate sponsors have undoubtedly raised the financial and marketing profiles of all involved.
  • Consider Dual Impact.  Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about soliciting corporate support, a word of caution is in order.  Before you make the leap in approaching a corporation, be sure to consider their track record in the community.  Has the corporation been involved in any fair-wage disputes (think: Wal-Mart)?  Is there a questionable increase in philanthropic dollars due to a proposed company merge (think: Capital One-ING Direct)?  If your nonprofit is at all concerned about the potential backlash of accepting certain forms of corporate support, then it is worth it to do your homework in the front end.


Now, it’s your turn.  What other tips would you suggest in seeking corporate support?