PMA Consulting, LLC

Corporate Philanthropy is Dead (have we got your attention?)

For the most part, and with some obvious exceptions, corporate philanthropy is dead. (Have we got your attention?) The notion of businesses “giving back” for the broader charitable good still exists in the form of corporate foundations (e.g. Bank of America Foundation, US Airways Education Foundation), but gone are the days of the sort of corporate benevolence your parents and grandparents experienced, when titans of industry supported causes not because of the tax implications but because it was the “right thing to do.”

That is not to say corporate support for the nonprofit sector is nonexistent – just the opposite, in fact. It just means 501c3’s must think like the for-profit companies from which they are seeking support. Corporate sources of support are more often sponsorship dollars derived from marketing budgets, and nonprofit sponsorships are considered alongside other marketing opportunities. As such, every corporate donor, regardless of size or intent, should be treated as a sponsor receiving visibility benefits.

Present-day corporate sponsorships are typically designed based on consumer impressions, defined as the number of times a company’s brand is placed, either verbally or visually, in front of audiences/attendees/ visitors/recipients. Though this has traditionally been a function of presenting a logo, it is not enough anymore to simply stick a corporate logo on materials and consider it generating impact for the sponsor. Businesses are increasingly seeking brand elevation, where an organization lifts a sponsor up for recognition. The “cost per consumer impression” is the metric many companies use in their determinations – so how can your nonprofit remain competitive?

  1. Catalogue your opportunities – Most organizations have a number of activities with potential consumer impressions attached but may not have taken stock of them all. Create a spreadsheet representing one full year of your programming and outreach, and chronicle the types of outward facing activities that could be an opportunity for sponsor recognition – events, mailings, newsletters, social media, website, blog, etc. Be sure to chronicle the number of recipients (attendees, visitors, etc) as well as the frequency of those activities. Are there activities you aren’t doing now that you could?
  2. Design a Comprehensive Sponsorship Platform -How can a $5,000 sponsorship be recognized in a variety of ways by your organization? The power of consumer impressions is that you can break them down in a variety of different ways depending on the interests of sponsor. Though there are always premiums placed on naming programs or being a title sponsor, most sponsorships can be described as a function of an equation made up of consumer impressions.
  3. Get to know your sponsors – It is quite easy to find out the types of projects a company is interested in sponsoring – just ask! The company may be targeting a specific demographic this quarter, and you may have programming that aligns perfectly. But if you never ask, and instead lead with the project you want funded, you will never know what could have been.
  4. Consolidate Requests -Some organizations make multiple requests of companies throughout the year – first to support programming, then to buy a table at a luncheon, and perhaps later as a gala attendee. Your organization is more likely to receive substantive support if you approach a company once, with all of the opportunities wrapped into one ask. This may mean reorienting volunteers who have secured that support annually for an event – better to consolidate the request into a one-stop ask.