Research proves it. More and more companies are addressing the rising importance of philanthropy by engaging employees in charitable causes. For example, they include favored nonprofits in their brand identity and then use that association to attract talent, increase sales, and realize tax savings. Doing good is good for business.
- According to Donor Box, 87 percent of consumers said they would purchase a product simply because a company advocated for an issue they care about.
- Corporate social responsibility research has consistently shown a positive relationship between sales and a company’s social responsibility activities. When choosing between two brands of equal value, 90 percent of consumers are likely to switch to a cause-branded product.
- According to Givinga, up to 78 percent of employees want to want to be active in corporate social responsibility efforts.
Businesses have great incentive to get involved with community nonprofits. Do you have the level of support you want from your business community?
To get the attention of the business community, you need to do two things: create awareness of and differentiate your nonprofit from all other nonprofits. These form the foundation for inviting business leaders to a cultivation event.
Creating Awareness in the Business Community
You create awareness of your nonprofit by being visible. Involvement with your local, regional, and state Chambers of Commerce, Business and Industry chapter, Rotary Club, and other business groups are a good place to start. At the very least, you want to attend their networking events. If they have an annual dinner, you want to be there too. If they have regular meetings, you may want to consider attending so that other group members get to know you and remember you and your organization.
If you want to make even more of impression, join a committee or workgroup. Active committee participation demonstrates what you, and by association your nonprofit, can bring to the table. Serving on a committee also gives you a chance to gain exposure for your organization and causes business leaders to think of you as a peer.
In addition to networking and participating in workgroups, radio spots, TV stories, and print articles create visibility for your agency, including within the business community. Explore advertising in business publications, guesting on business-focused radio and TV programs, contributing articles to business-directed magazines, newspapers, and other publications, or sponsoring a business event.
You can also draw the attention of the business community by designing your website so that it contains keywords that business professionals may use in an internet search. Cultivation events are also a good way to introduce your nonprofit to business professionals.
To target specific businesses using social media, like and follow them on social media. Forward and share their posts that are of interest to your donors, volunteers, advocates, and community partners. Tag specific businesses as part of your social media strategy. And mention them in posts you write. Get them to notice your agency by noticing theirs.
Of course, you don’t stop there. You must differentiate your nonprofit and find a way to connect with them person to person.
Differentiating Your Nonprofit
You create differentiation by developing a unique marketing position statement. A unique marketing position is what your agency brings to the community that no other nonprofit like you brings. It tells the world where your organization fits into the landscape of all the other nonprofits, what your agency’s niche is, and what makes your organization different. Once you know how your nonprofit is different than any other, you can start building clear, unifying messages around that uniqueness.
You formulate your unique marketing position statement by taking your agency’s perceptions of itself, your clients’ perceptions of your agency, your donors’ perceptions, your competitor’s perceptions, and the community’s perceptions and figuring out the one thing all those perceptions have in common. In that one thing they have in common lies your unique value to the market. Once you know how you are different than everyone else, then you can start building clear, unifying messages around it.
After you have differentiated your nonprofit and gotten noticed, if you really want to stand out, don’t approach businesses asking for money. It’s not how to start relationships. Instead, ask how you can help them meet their business goals.
Be a partner with them. With businesses, it is an exchange relationship where both parties give and receive something of value. If you approach them asking to enter into a relationship that meets their goals, you will get much farther along than if you come across as a beggar asking for a handout. And you are more likely to be successful in getting a donation.
Sponsoring Cultivation Events
Cultivation events are good vehicles for engaging businesses in your community with your nonprofit. You can hold cultivation events with business prospects just as you do with individual prospects. The principles are the same. All that changes is your target audience. Which, in turn, affects the type of event you plan, who your host is, and the time and place of the event.
To run a successful cultivation event:
- Target the businesses you want to reach.
- Design the type of event you want to hold. Use your stakeholder feedback to inform your choices.
- Find a host for the event. This should not be you, the executive director. It should be a peer of the people you want to invite.
- Find a time that works for your host and is convenient for businesspeople.
- Find a location. Again, let your stakeholder feedback guide your choices.
- Send the invitation—under the name of the host, not you or any of your staff.
- Plan the agenda. Make it mission related and do not include an ask. Your goal, just as with individuals, is to connect and get a better understanding of one another.
- Hold the event.
- Follow up with attendees.
The follow-up is important because that is when you can really start building strong one-on-one relationships and engage business leaders with your nonprofit. Once you have an established relationship, you can ask for a gift.
Wrapping It Up
Research shows that doing good is good for business. Create awareness of your nonprofit within your local business community by getting involved in business endeavors. Develop a unique marketing position statement to differentiate your agency and get for-profits’ attention. Invite business leaders to cultivation events and build strong relationships with them. Engage them with your nonprofit without delay.
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