Steven Fields CFRE, MMC | Senior Consultant, Cramer & Associates
What is corporate philanthropy? As a nonprofit leader, you likely already have a sense of the giving opportunities presented by corporations. You may have made an ask or two of corporate giving officers yourself, but it goes far beyond just dollar amounts and one-off meetings filled with predetermined talking points about your organization. At its core, corporate philanthropy today boils down to a few key components: authenticity, alignment, and trust.
As the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes more and more important to companies, investors, consumers, and employees alike, corporate giving officers are beginning to look at their obligations to the communities they serve with more intention. In turn, the way they practice philanthropy and distribute charitable dollars is becoming more intentional, too. Today, corporate philanthropy is defined not just by the act of giving away funds and support, but also by the core values that they are striving to exude. What they may be asking themselves is: Do we have an authentic relationship with the organization(s) seeking funds from us? Does the organization’s mission align with our values as a company? If we make a financial commitment to this organization, do we have full trust in their ability to use the funds to further their mission and impact, in whatever form that looks like for them?
So, with these trends in mind, how can you prepare to form meaningful relationships with the giving officers who determine where their company’s valuable resources go that in turn leads to a successful philanthropic ask from them? As you seek to get inside the mind of a funder and have a successful conversation, we believe it’s all about nailing these six things:
- 1 – Research: Do your digging ahead of time so you can properly identify and know your audience! When you’re searching for potential corporate donors, look closely at their company values and what types of organizations they typically give to. Do they seem to align with your organization, or would you be coming in from left field?
- 2 – Relationship: When you’ve identified a corporation that aligns with your organization’s mission, you then need to identify the individual (in most cases the giving officer) that you want to talk to so you can begin to develop a genuine relationship with them. Make it personal – take some time to learn about their role, background, hobbies, etc. (usually a simple Google search is all it takes)! Personally reach out and request a time to meet to share more about your organization.
- 3 – Purpose: Once a time is set and you begin preparing for your meeting, it’s crucial to keep its purpose at the front of your mind – whether it’s a simple introduction to increase awareness, a formal request for financial support, or something in between. Know your purpose and make sure they know it, too, by sharing your concise agenda that allows time to share a compelling story of the impact their gift could have, and also time to answer their questions and be conversational. Giving officers likely already have a dollar amount or other form of support in mind that they’re comfortable with giving, and throughout the meeting, it’s your job to move that number up or down.
- 4 – Practice: Preparation is key. Review your notes, anticipate their questions, know your answers, and remember the importance of staying on task. Do not rely solely on any collateral materials – those items are meant to support the meeting rather than be a crutch to read word-for-word from and should ideally be sent to the other person for review 3 to 4 days in advance. Maintain the mindset that this is the first of many meetings, and try not to cram too much content into the time that you’ve been allotted. Clear is kind!
- 5 – Perform: After confirming the meeting 24 to 48 hours prior, it’s time to show up! Arrive 10 minutes early and get organized. Once you’re in front of them, be open and remember not to dominate the conversation. Stay on task, remain positive, and remember that you are a representation of your organization. Ensure that you have mutually established next steps before leaving the meeting.
- 6 – Debrief: Don’t underestimate the power of following up. Promptly (within 24 hours) send a thank you email to the person you met with, and if applicable, don’t forget to thank the person who helped schedule the meeting, too! An additional handwritten thank you note in the mail within the week is an extra special touch that will set you apart. Then, be sure to hold up your end of the bargain and complete any agreed-upon next steps. Continue the conversation into the future by keeping in touch and cultivating the relationship for which you’ve just planted the seed.
Developing relationships in corporate philanthropy is crucial and mutually beneficial, and it all starts with this first meeting. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming – take the first step and prepare by downloading our resource: “A Nonprofit’s Checklist for Meeting With a Corporate Giving Officer” below, and reach out to talk with Team Cramer today!
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