The current philanthropic environment in Canada is one of great opportunities and challenges. While Canadian corporation give away a lot of money, securing corporate funding can be challenging. More than ever, companies are professionalizing their approach to philanthropy and sponsorship and seeking to align their community investment with their business objectives. At the same time, the number of registered charities in Canada keeps growing. In addition to these traditional charities there are many emerging small agencies and they are all looking for corporate dollars. How do we all stake our claim and get noticed – not only to secure funding but maintain on-going support?
Develop a strong, clear value proposition
It is critical to illustrate your organization’s unique importance and relevance. Ensure that everyone in your organization can answer the following questions:
- what you are / what you are not
- what you do
- what your organization hopes to achieve
- who benefits from what you do and why it is important to the community
- and, who would lose if you were not funded.
Whether your proposition is designed for an elevator pitch or a longer funding proposal with depth, use plain language and a powerful explanation of why your organization is uniquely positioned to make an impact on the community you serve.
Understand your corporate partners
Know who you are soliciting – both the individual and the corporation. There is a growing importance to companies that they be seen as strategic in their community investment. Corporations are leveraging partnerships to fulfill business goals and looking for goal alignment. Companies give for many reasons:
- To be good corporate citizens – it is the right thing to do
- To create good will and good public relations – to respond to marketing interests
- To create brand value and for positioning
It is important to understand what these motivations are. Find the companies whose interests match your organization and find the people that care about what you do enough to invest in it. Tailor your message and address to the issues that they are passionate about.
In addition to the larger and more well-known corporate sponsors, don’t forget to target small to medium sized companies in your own community for potential opportunities of support.
Build support within the company
It used to be that corporate executives exchanged “asks” for their respective causes. While this model of securing support hasn’t disappeared completely, the process has been considerably broadened and professionalized. While corporate leadership is still relevant, there are increasingly more thoughtful approaches to corporate philanthropy.
Increasingly corporations are also listening to their employees. Companies want opportunities to engage employees and to be responsive to them so make sure they are talking about you! Create opportunities within your organization to engage corporate employees in your cause, for example special events and volunteer opportunities. Human resources departments have an increasingly important role in creating and permitting opportunities for employee engagement. It is critical to cultivate these internal advocates.
Cultivate employee funds
Employee funds are an important potential revenue source. These funds are pools of undesignated (and unrestricted) monies created through employee donations that are allocated to worthy causes. Companies are seeking opportunities that are relevant to their corporate interest or employee interest. While these are not officially corporate dollars, they are accessed through the corporate domain. The funds are usually not very large (i.e. $5,000) but it is still a good way to develop a relationship with the corporation. Moreover it is often possible to leverage matching corporate dollars from some employee funds.
Develop meaningful recognition and stewardship
It is important to understand what your corporate partner is looking for – recognition, stewardship, and many engagement opportunities. It is dangerous to assume you know what they are looking for. Ask them! Engage them and understand what they want from the relationship.
Ensure that you are transparent about what you can and cannot do. Do not promise what you cannot deliver, e.g. widespread media coverage. Attempt a customized approach by providing unique and meaningful recognition. Understand if there is an employee component to their recognition and stewardship needs. Consider providing content for company newsletters and opportunities for employee tours and/or volunteering.
Stewardship is complex. How you respond to, and provide information to the donor can be challenging. Statistical information on grant impact and evaluation is often difficult and does not adequately convey how a grant has impacted your organization and the community you serve. Try to communicate how lives have been changed and how communities have improved; try to bring the agency to life. Identify engagement opportunities such as volunteer opportunities, briefings on issues and speakers. Take donors on tours to agencies so they can see first hand the impact of their dollars at work.
Five Good Resources
- Corporate Social Responsibility
Industry Canada – Corporate Social Responsibility – Information on the benefits of CSR, case studies, tools for business as well as what the private sector and Industry Canada is doing to promote CSR. There are also links to Canadian and international sites that contain further information on CSR including The National Corporate Social Responsibility Report: Managing Risks, Leveraging Opportunities from the Conference Board of Canada.
- Corporate Foundations
Directory to Foundations and Corporations.
BIG Online Canada – Directory of donors, individual, corporate and foundation.
- Proposal Writing
Building Foundation Partnerships: The basics of foundation fundraising and proposal writing – From Imagine Canada, free with the subscription – but not available to non-subscribers. 72-page manual. (free with membership)
Guide for Writing a Funding Proposal – A practical Guide that provides both instructions on how to write a funding proposal with actual examples of a completed proposal
- Regional Small Business Directories
Toronto Business Directory 2005
Contact Toronto 2005: An Annual Who’s Who of Top Employers and Decision Makers in the Toronto Region.