How can fundraisers form relationships and raise funds from corporations?
Read a transcription of a podcast produced by The Fund Raising School, narrated by Bill Stanczykiewicz, assistant dean for external relations and director of The Fund Raising School, and featuring Dr. Dwight Burlingame, Glenn Family Chair in Philanthropy and professor of philanthropic studies.
Bill Stanczykiewicz (BS): I’m Bill Stanczykiewicz, and this is the First Day from The Fund Raising School. I’m joined today by Dr. Dwight Burlingame, a nationally recognized expert on fundraising from the business sector.
And Dwight, thanks so much for being with us. When we fundraise from individuals, we need to know each donor’s particular motivation. Your research shows that the business sector has some categories of motivation when they give. What do fundraisers need to know?
Dr. Dwight Burlingame (DB): Well, first of all, they need to know that companies are in business.
What’s the purpose of a business? To make money. You can’t do good if you don’t do well. So the fundamental principle here is that you have to be able to make a profit in order to give away some of that profit to charity. So the fundamental purpose, number one, is how does it help your business?
Number one and most importantly for fundraisers is the issue of building employee morale.
If you have higher morale, all of the studies show that you’ll have greater productivity. Greater productivity equals more money, and so it’s really important to know how to build morale.
One of the best ways of building morale is to have an organized company volunteer program managed by the company. If it’s managed by the company, the employee does increase his or her productivity.
So a volunteer program is number one. How do your employees engage with their charities or those that you have an interest in as the corporation? Tying something that’s good for the company with employee interests and putting that all into a volunteer program, and you’ll have successful engagement with various nonprofits.
So what does the nonprofit need to do? How do I, as a fundraiser, match my mission with the company’s vision?
BS: In a way that encourages employee recruitment, retention and morale. We’re seeing this with volunteer days or employers giving their employees paid time off to volunteer.
What do you see in terms of businesses giving, in terms of matching their employee giving or giving dollars where their employees volunteer? Is that something that’s on the upswing?
DB: That is definitely on the upswing. There’s a recent report that identified that one of the largest factors has been that there is an uptick in employee giving, and employee giving that is motivated and enhanced by the company. The company gives value to a culture that encourages participation and adds good value. So it’s not just about making a profit. It is also doing good while you’re making the profit.
BS: So one key aspect as it relates to employees and helping employers with their employee recruitment, retention, and morale, is in your annual fund, on that response mechanism, ask a simple question. Does your employer match your gift? We had a visitor from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who said that in 2017, $6 billion went un-donated because as fundraisers, we did not ask that simple question. That’s how common this is, as businesses are tying in much of their charitable giving with their employees.
So employees are a big factor. What are some of the other motivations in the business sector?
DB: Obviously, how do I enhance my product, if I’m in that kind of business, and make it known to my customers? Therefore, how is your nonprofit doing something that will engage what the company wants to accomplish in terms of their product?
The best examples of this kind of thing are probably in the computing industry with technology. Think about school corporations and various other nonprofits, who all have this technology need.
If you’re a technology company, getting children and teenagers to use your product, your computer, is going to help build future products and future customers. So tying in, we’ll be engaged with you in more of a long-term partnership rather than just a one-off donation, which is what a lot of corporate giving, especially in smaller markets, has done. They donate to charities seeking an annual donation for this or that.
So thinking about how do you build partnerships that are long-lasting, that are self-interested for the company at the same time that they would meet your particular match in terms of what you’re doing, and where you can demonstrate return to the company.
BS: It goes back to that workforce development opportunity. We think about helping businesses as they are reaching out to their employees or potential employees. They’re looking for good public relations for their product.
You mentioned business self-interest. There are some folks who may get nervous promoting the business sector. What advice do you have for fundraisers who, when we’re saying it needs to be a win-win for the business sector, might be a little nervous about approaching certain companies?
DB: Two things come immediately to mind. Number one: there’s a document called the “Eight Degrees of Tzedakah,” written by Moses Maimonides in the 10th century. The highest form of giving was self-sufficiency, or giving a person a job.
What do businesses do? By giving people jobs, they are doing a good principle in terms of philanthropy.
So we first recognize that.
Secondly, pick your partner. Pick a company that is a good match for you and for them. As a nonprofit and as a fundraiser, you don’t want to be embarrassed by a particular product. For example, if you’re the American Cancer Society, it’s unlikely you’re going to want to take money from tobacco companies, right?
Thirdly, think about the relationship with how you can work with a company in partnership with another company or another sector. Think of the funding for something like STEM education. You’re going to want to partner with government, as well as with businesses who are interested in sciences, mathematics, and/or engineering. And so you have multiple sources.
Companies don’t always necessarily like to donate by themselves. There’s greater liking if a company is investing into a nonprofit project that is also being shared by others because they believe in it.
You’re more likely to be successful as a result.
Interested in diving more into the topic of fundraising from the business sector? Learn more and register for The Fund Raising School course in Indianapolis from October 21-22.